Korfball: Characteristics, Rules, Rationale

The korfball is a recreational sport that arose from the hand of Nico Broekhuysen in 1902 (although it became popular in 1905) in Holland. Although at first glance it looks a lot like basketball, it has quite different rules (for example, the ball cannot be bounced).

This sport is played between two teams of 8 people each (previously it was played with teams of 12 people), where each formation is made up of four men and four women, thus forming a mixed team (it is the only one regulated in this way in the world).


The objective of each team is to score as many goals as possible during the game; that is, introduce the ball into the basket or korf during the 60 minutes of play.

General rules of korfball

The general rules that apply to this discipline are the following:


Four team members make up the attack zone, while the remaining four make up the defensive zone.

Each zone of four members is made up of two men and two women, and during the game it is not possible to exchange zones (except after 2 goals scored).

2-You cannot advance with the ball in hand

The movement of the ball is only possible through the pass to the partner (distance pass only), it is not possible to advance with the ball in hand (not even by bouncing the same as in basketball). Body movement can only be around the axis of the kickstand.

3-Player changes

Up to four player changes are allowed during the match. Each substitution must be of the same gender.

4-Validation of the annotation

The ball is thrown by a player and passes through the circumference of the korf. Once a goal has been scored, the team that suffered it must resume play from the center of the court.

5-Play time

The game lasts sixty minutes by the clock, organized in two halves of thirty minutes each, with a rest time of approximately fifteen minutes in between these two.


A penalty is charged in favor of a team when a player of the latter receives an infraction in a clear scoring situation.

The penalty is executed from the marked spot and must be shot directly to the basket. The rest of the players must stand outside the marked area.


Each player can only mark one person at a time, and this has to be the same gender (a man cannot mark a woman and vice versa).

The mark must consist of blocking positioning (as in basketball) at one arm’s length and there must be no contact.

 7-Other prohibited movements

-Play from the ground.

-Touch the ball with your feet.

-Touch the ball when it is in the hands of a rival player (the ball can only be intercepted when it is in the air).

-Obstruct the movement of a player who does not currently have the ball.

-The self-pass: throw the ball up and capture it again in a new position.

Fundamentals of the playing field and characteristics of the sport

This sport, like basketball and football, is played both outdoors and indoors and is implemented in the following way:

-The playing field is rectangular and its dimensions are: 40 × 20 meters (40 meters long by 20 meters wide). The total of the field is divided into two halves (one for each team).

-The baskets or korf are placed in the center of each midfield and have a diameter of approximately 40 centimeters. The material with which they are made is usually plastic, they do not have a net like in basketball and they are clinging to the top of a pole that measures 3.5 meters. Their colors must be striking (generally yellow is used).

-The ball (or ball) is very similar to the one used in soccer in weight and size (to be more precise, in indoor soccer).

The role of the referee

As in any sport, there is always a referee whose job it is to enforce the rules impartially. The referee is the one who starts the game, stops it and restarts it by whistle.

Regarding the infractions, if the referee considers that it was minor, a player of the team that received it will resume the game from the same position where said fault was committed.

In the case of a major offense, the player of the injured team will resume play from the penalty spot (the rest of the receiving players must be located outside the marked area).

It is worth clarifying that in both cases the player who resumes cannot shoot directly to the korf but rather hand the ball to a teammate. In addition, it must be done within 4 seconds after the whistle.

The referee can sanction a player, as in football, with yellow cards (caution) and red cards (expulsion); Furthermore, it also has assistants or line judges to support certain decisions (fouls that were not seen and when the ball exceeds the limit established by the field of play).

International competitions

Being a popular sport in Europe and not in the world, this discipline has the countries of that continent as sport powers. The clear dominator is the country belonging to the founder of this sport (Nico Broekhuysen), that is, the Netherlands.

The korfball World Cup has been held every four years since 1978. Of the nine editions played (from 1978 to 2011), the Netherlands was world champion in eight opportunities, Belgium being the winning country in the remaining (1991).

The European Korfball Championship has taken place since 1998. Of the 4 editions played (from 1998 to 2010), the Netherlands was the champion every time.

Currently, this sport is expanding around many countries in the world (especially in the American continent), although of course, there is still a long way to go before it reaches the degree of popularity that other sports such as football or basketball have .


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