What the Heck Is… Korfball

The Tab is kicking off a new regular feature informing students of the weird and wonderful world of Cambridge Sport. HENRY PRITCH investigates the Dutch sport Korfball.

Cambridge henry pritch Jack Anderson korfball netherlands Oxford Varsity

Have you ever been out and about in Cambridge and seen someone in a hoody that unmistakably marks them out as a University sport player, and then read the emblazoned word ‘Korfball’? My first reaction was “What the heck is Korfball?”

Well, The Tab is here to dispel this ignorance, and educate the student population on all the niche sports that people continue to compete with almost comic ferocity in.

Korfball, a sport that originated in the Netherlands, where it is very popular, could apparently be described as a mix of netball and handball (not comparisons I found especially useful). It is a mixed game, with four girls and four guys on each team. It’s also extremely popular in Belgium and Taiwan, and Britain has been known to put out a decent side too.

Korfball is a growing sport in Cambridge

Korfball is a growing sport in Cambridge

The format of each match is that the teams are halved into ‘divisions’ which play against other teams on either side of the court, separately and simultaneously. At any one point one division of a team is attacking, while the other is defending. After two goals they switch.

You can take two steps with the ball, and you cannot shoot for the basket (or ‘korf’) until you are not ‘defended’ – which seems to translate as being just beyond the flailing grasp of your opponent – who will be trying to block you as if trying not to violate some kind of two-inch restraining order.

The Cambridge team has been relatively successful of late, winning varsity in 2011, drawing in the following year and losing narrowly last season. There is evidently strong competition at BUCS though, with the team having slipped from 7th to 15th in the National standings between 2012 and 2013.

The Cambridge team has been relatively successful of late, winning varsity in 2011

The Cambridge team has been relatively successful of late, winning varsity in 2011

The sport is played by almost every university you can name, and there are loads of local Cambridgeshire teams as well. If you want to take part, their website encourages new members, so go for it. Who knows, there might even be a sweet hoody in it for you.