I think it’s fair to say that korfbal has a reputation, and it’s not the best one. I’ve heard that it’s more boring than bingo, and that was one of the kinder remarks. But I’m no sport snob, and as a foreigner I was keen to find out more about this peculiar Dutch game, so I grabbed the chance to attend the Women’s Top Class Korfbal final last Saturday evening.
The Indoor Sports Centrum was a hive of activity. There were busloads of fans and lots of noise. I was told it was quite a small event, but to be honest, I was surprised at just how busy it was. I found my place just before the players were introduced and a roar of applause and cheering resounded through the centre as each woman ran onto the court. The teams were the Korfrakkers from Erp and Be Quick from Nuland.
When the match began, I spent a long time trying to figure out the rules. For anyone who’s familiar with netball, it’s kind of similar, but different! What I found interesting was that when every two goals are scored, the 4 attacking players become the defence and vice versa, so no one is stuck in one position. The players can also shoot a goal from behind the post, though I soon realised that the post isn’t actually right at the back of the court, as it is in netball. And unlike netball, any attacking player can shoot a goal, from anywhere in the attacking zone, which is half of the court. It seems to me that there are far fewer restrictions in korfbal!
It took more than five minutes for the first goal to be scored by the Korfrakkers, and they had a 9 – 6 lead at half time. The fans were on fire in the second half and the momentum kept building as the clock ticked on. Be Quick never gave up but the Korfrakkers always had the edge. When the final whistle blew after 60 minutes of play, the team from Erp were crowned champions with a 17 – 11 point victory.
The players were I saw were strong, agile, fast and athletic. The crowd were raucous but respectful. There was no security breaking up fights or fans badmouthing the opposing team (not that I could hear, at least!). There were a lot of young teens and tweens who were watching on with their own team mates and clearly having a fun time, while perhaps even picking up a tip or two about the game. And even though Korfbal is, in my mind, a very Dutch sport, it is now played internationally, and no, not only in Belgium! It’s spread to more than 60 countries around the world – as far and as wide as India, China, South Africa, the USA and my own homeland, Australia. So if being healthy and fit, a part of a team, and having fun is uncool, then so be it. But personally, I think all these things make for a pretty cool sport.