Korfball's appeal lies in its profound simplicity - a mixed team sport with equal number of men and women . . . and not just when there happen to be girls around who are willing to play. It's a rule of the game. No women, no korfball.
Korfball translates as basketball, but the Dutch name has remained to avoid confusion. There are eight players per team (four of each sex), two goal posts (11 ft high with nets that look like wastepaper baskets) and a football. As with netball, running with or bouncing the ball is not permitted and the aim is to score as many goals as possible. Players must only attack or defend against a person of the same sex.
The game takes place around the goal posts which are stationed inside the court rather than at the far ends. Every time two goals are scored, the members of each team have to change positions, volleyball-style, so that defenders become attackers and vice versa. Consequently, players have to be versatile.
Ian Budhu, trainer at the Vultrix Korfball Club, makes sure of this by devising fun-filled games as practice sessions. One involves a team dangling handkerchiefs from their shorts which the opposition must retrieve without any physical contact.
Budhu has been playing the game for 16 years and says: 'Not only is it the first totally mixed team sport in the world, but it relies intrinsically on the co-operation of the sexes. The beauty of it is that it depends on both the strengths and weaknesses of men and women. The skills that boys lack, or just don't have because of their height and size, are made up for by the girls and in many ways the game is much more strategic as a result.'
At the Vultrix Club, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves without so much as a whiff of machismo throughout the entire two-hour session. It becomes obvious when playing the game that the single-sex rule on tackling is both an intelligent and practical one. It avoids confrontation with the opposite sex while permitting them to work together. Team spirit flourishes yet women are not disadvantaged by strength.
Most players seem to have been introduced to the game by peers, siblings or at college, largely because the game still has a fairly low profile. A regular explained: 'My brother used to play and he got me into it. Actually, he met his wife through korfball . . . bound to happen isn't it?'
The meeting of a partner through a team sport seems as unlikely as it is desirable. As one player put it, 'It's so nice to get fit, have fun, meet some girls and go out for a drink with them after the match. It certainly beats playing a game of footie or rugby with the lads.'
Budhu confesses, 'I went to an all-boys school and wouldn't have met girls until after 18. I've been seeing them since the age of 11 and I am sure that I'm a better person for it.'
To become a better person write to your MP and demand korfball classes at school and sports centres throughout the country. Now.
Vultrix Korfball Club meets every Thursday 8.15pm to 10pm at the Brixton Recreation Centre, London SW2. Contact Iona for further details on 081-672 1914
For information regarding venues countrywide, contact the British Korfball Association on 081-863 8723
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