Forget the Boat Race, forget Varsity, forget Cuppers finals. Saturday 30th May marks what promises to be one of the most fresh and thrilling events in the Oxford University sporting calendar. In a few days, the University Korfball Club will take on Isis, a local Oxfordshire team, in the first ever Town vs Gown korfball match – a big deal. If you have no idea what we’re talking about; read on, get excited, and hopefully we’ll see you there.
Korfball is the Dutch cousin of netball and basketball
Korfball is the Dutch cousin of netball and basketball (“korf” means “basket” in Dutch). Here, we play in teams consisting of 4 girls and 4 guys (but, in some other places, teams are all-female). You can shoot from anywhere on the pitch – unless you’re closely marked, in which case you can’t shoot from anywhere. So, attacking play consists of intelligently creating space between yourself and the other team’s defenders, either by running past your marker or by shooting from a distance. Matches last an hour and are very fast paced.
There are two zones in korfball – “attacking” and “defending” – with half of each team occupying each zone. These halves swap zones after every second goal. You can’t dribble, but footwork is less tightly regulated than in netball. All in all, korfball is a lot of fun to play and it’s even more fun to watch.
Where does the Town vs Gown match fit into our season? As well as being involved in BUCS tournaments and Varsity matches, we play weekly games in the high-stakes, ultra-competitive Oxfordshire Korfball league. This year, we faced a monumental challenge – fighting against relegation. Driven by fear of shame and the potential for eternal glory, we won back our rightful place in the top division.
Perhaps the most nail-biting moment of the season was our match against the very same Isis team that we’ll be playing in Town vs Gown. After a nerve-wracking 60 minutes of play, we finished at a draw. Isis went on to lose subsequent key matches, leading to their relegation. Sad, but not that sad. Both teams are coached by the same man (shout out to Martin Hurajt), a Korfball legend who decided to coach Isis both for the relegation match and for the upcoming game on Saturday. We like to think it’s because they need all the help they can get.
The Town vs Gown will be a tense and complex match
The team to take on our infamous rivals wasn’t handpicked by our coach, but instead by a true Dutch Korfball star, who has been living and playing Korfball in Oxford this year – Lisette Krabbendam. The Town vs Gown will be a tense and complex match, so our players need to have skill, be able to perform under pressure and have a real desire to win. We think our team’s got all of those qualities. (See team sheet below)
Lisette Krabbendam (Brasenose)
Helen Davies (Balliol)
Alex Lindsay-Perez (St Edmund Hall)
Céline Shepherd (St Anne’s)
Alice Thomson (Lady Margaret Hall)
Liz Heard (St Anne’s)
David Sinclair (Wolfson)
Ally Glennie (Magdalen)
Henry Ip (Magdalen)
Alex Lewis (St Anne’s)
Chandu Wickramarachichi (New)
As you’ll see from the team sheet, Korfball is often played as a mixed-gender sport – in almost unprecedented fashion, men and women play together on the same court. This is perhaps the best thing about Korfball, and the Town vs Gown match is worth watching just because of that.
Some people play for fame, some people play for money, some for fresh meat on the Park End dance-floor. However, those who stick around know that it’s a tactical game, where you can’t win unless you play as a team. The player that feeds the pass that leads to a goal is as important as the scorer herself. And the loner standing under the post with his arms up? He’s vital. Believe me.
Because of all this, this Saturday’s match is a lot more than just ‘Town vs Gown’. It’s a grudge match – an opportunity for the outright win we deserved the first time we played Isis this season or, alternatively, a chance for Isis to get revenge. It’ll be an exhibition of the highest level of korfball that Oxfordshire has to offer – and it’ll also be a lot of fun.
It’ll be an exhibition of the highest level of korfball that Oxfordshire has to offer
The match is at Iffley Road Gym (sports hall), 16:00-18:00, Saturday 30th May (5th week). Hopefully we’ll see you there to cheer us on!