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korfball: a sport with true gender equality; Ever heard of korfball? Did you know that Wales just hosted one of the sport's most prestigious competitions? We asked korfball player Will Hayward to explain what it's all about.

IT'S the lesser-known mixed gender sport described as a cross between netball and basketball - and Wales is among the world's top 25 korfball-playing nations.

As a country we compete at World and European Championships and just last week Cardiff hosted the first round of the Europa Cup, the korfball equivalent of football's Champions League.

As someone who has played korfball for Wales I find it hard to overstate my frustration when I say to people "I am an international korfballer" and they don't immediately offer to buy me a drink or ask for an autograph.

Se enjoy a beginner's guide to my sport!

What is Korfball? Korfball is similar to netball and basketball in that you score by throwing a ball through a hoop.

The hoop is called a korf (the Dutch word for basket). You get two steps with the ball and the korf is at the centre of each half so your formations are circular.

Korfball is the only sport that offers true gender equality. A team has four males and four females but men can only mark men and women can only mark women.

Although a woman may not be as tall or strong as the guys on her team, if she is a better player than the girl defending her, she is the most important person on the court.

Korfball was invented by a Dutch school teacher in 1902, around the same time as basketball.

Unfortunately basketball had much better marketing.

T.he sport is now played in 67 countries with the Dutch boasting 580 clubs and 100,000 players.

Korfball in Wales The Welsh Korfball Association (WKA) or Cymdeithas Pel-Corff Cymru was only founded in 2002 but has seen impressive growth.

Eleven teams now compete at five clubs, with an international team and hundreds of players.

James Wilcox is the development officer for the WKA.

He said: "Wales has seen new university clubs forming at Aberystwyth and Cardiff Metropolitan, joining the established club at Cardiff University.

"In that time Raptors have gone from a new start-up to arguably Wales' premier club, with three teams across two divisions.

"Cardiff City has traditionally been Wales' most successful club, but with rapid growth within Wales this position could soon be challenged by the likes of Raptors, or perhaps newer clubs again.

"The landscape of korfball in Wales is one of creativity and opportunity."

All the clubs compete in the Welsh National league, with Cardiff Raptors also competing in the Western Regional League, playing clubs from as far afield as Basingstoke, Oxford and Southampton.

James Macleod is chairman of Raptors Korfball, who have just competed in the Europa Cup.

He said: "Seeing the club playing at this level meant that all the hard work on and off the court that everyone at the club had put in was worth it.

"Playing at the Cup level has also given the club a real feel-good factor and we now want to go on and compete at this level every year."

Wales on the international stage The international squad was also started in 2002.

Most people in team started playing korfball at university and didn't even know what a korf was before they were adults.

Speaking as someone who is 5ft 8in and who started korfball aged 19, I can attest to the baptism of fire of playing against a 6ft 7in Dutch man who was playing before he started primary school.

The team has really kicked on in the past two years under new coach Tom Brady. Nick Wilkins is the current captain of the national team. In the 11 years of representing his country he has scored 98 goals in 54 appearances and is the top scorer in Welsh korfball history.

Asked how Wales manage to compete against much better resourced nations, he said: "A really good style of play and really good coaching.

"We have had a core of players who are very dedicated. They are prepared to put in the hours and extra training and that helps them compete.

"There has been a focus on developing younger players and playing a faster style and it is paying dividends.

"A highlight for me was the European Championships in 2010. We beat our rivals Ireland 11-10.

"There was a great atmosphere and it really set a benchmark for what we can do."

So the next time someone proudly declares that they are an international korfballer, buy them the beer they so richly deserve.
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 2, 2016
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