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What is Korfball?

What is korfball? Korfball is a Dutch sport played by men and women on the same team. The aim is to shoot the ball through a 3.5m high hoop. It is played by teams across the world, including many here in the UK.

If you are new to the game, don’t worry about memorising the rules, we will teach you this during your first few training sessions, but for those who want to know more about this interesting game read on.

We also recommend having a look at this video to get an understanding of the rules! The Rules of Korfball – Explained

Korfball was invented in 1902 by Dutch PE teacher Nico Broekhuysen. Korf is Dutch for basket. It is an adaptation of the Swedish game, ringboll, which itself shares lineage with both basketball and netball. It is the only mixed-sex team sport recognised by the International Olympic Committee. It has been in the Olympics twice – 1920 and 1928 – but is on the list of approved sports which could be included in future games ! Initially only popular in the Netherlands and Belgium, it drew criticism from social conservatives for promoting loose morals (but it’s not the only reason we love the sport).


The game is played on a rectangular pitch split into two square halves. Each half is known as a division. Korfball is played both indoors and outdoors, with standard indoor pitches being 20m x 40m and outdoor pitches 30m x 60m. Each division has a post which is set in one third from the back line. It is one of the few sports where you can score from behind the basket (“korf”). The korf is 3.5m from the ground and there is no backboard.


A korfball team is made up from eight players, four boys and four girls. The team is split into two divisions comprised of two boys and two girls. At the start of the game, each team designates one of its divisions as attackers and the other as defenders. After two goals are scored the roles swap with attackers becoming defenders and vice versa, they also swap halves. It is usual to have two substitute players in the team.



No player can run with the ball. If a player has possession of the ball while moving, they are allowed two steps before having to come to a stop or pass it off to someone else. A player can pivot on one foot, even after one step.


The aim of the attackers is to gain sufficient space from their defender to shoot the ball through their korf. An attacking player can shoot from anywhere in their own half as long as they aren’t defended. All goals are worth one point, whether shot from the halfway line or 1m away.


The aim of the defenders is to stop the attackers scoring a goal, re-gain possession of the ball and get it back into their attackers division. An attacker is ‘defended’ when the defender is satisfying three conditions:

  1. Closer to the korf than the attacker and is facing his/her opponent

    1. Within arm’s length of the attacker

    2. Actively attempting to block the ball


If an attacker shoots, even scores, whilst defended, the shot will not count and possession is awarded to the defence at the spot where the shot was taken from.


Restarts, free passes and penalties

When a rule is broken a restart is usually awarded, which is taken from the point of offence, much like a free kick in football. If a major offence is committed against the attack, such as contact, a free pass is awarded 2.5m in front of the post. No other player may be within 2.5m of the player taking the free pass. The free pass taker cannot take a direct shot at the korf.

A penalty is awarded when an attacker is denied the opportunity of scoring a goal through an offence committed by the defence. A classic example might be a defender contacting an attacker whilst they are shooting. A penalty shot is taken directly from 2.5m in front of the post. No other players can be within 2.5m of the post or the penalty taker. No one can come into that distance until the ball has left the taker’s hands.

Other points

With the exception of free passes and restarts, there is no time limit on how long an attacker can hold the ball. Once a player has possession of the ball no other player can physically take the ball from them. Contact is not allowed although is tolerated in certain conditions.


Like any team sport, tactics are very important. There are defensive tactics like front defence and rebound defence. There are attacking formations such as 4-0, 3-1 and 2-2. We will go into these topics in more depth at some of the trainings.

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