UEA-hosted University Korfball World Cup to unveil ‘secret’ sporting hobby
- Credit: Archant
The profile of a growing sport in Norfolk looks set to be boosted by the county's staging of an inaugural global tournament.
That is the long-term dream of a man who helped bring korfball – a mixed gender game with similarities to basketball, handball and netball – to the area 25 years ago. So it's no surprise Phil Buttinger is extremely excited about the UEA playing host to the first University Korfball World Cup, which starts today.
The Norwich City player, and Norfolk Korfball Association treasurer, said: 'Over the last 20 to 30 years as equality in sport has become more and more of an issue, and women have taken more to sport, korfball has definitely become more popular.
'It's great that women and men can be on the same pitch and compete alongside each other and it's the same with generations of the same family. Husbands, wives, children, and their partners, can all play in the same team and it helps create the sociable and family feel which is key to the sport.
'I think in the 1970s there were five countries playing and now there's more than 60. The UEA have six teams and the local league (Norfolk) has three divisions and 24 teams. So there's certainly been a steady growth which will hopefully continue.'
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Eight countries, including two sides from Great Britain and Holland, will compete in the three-day event in Norwich. The top two teams from each pool will meet in tomorrow's semi-finals before Saturday's place-deciding encounters.
Hopes are high that GB will receive plenty of home support with Norwich Knights' Charlie Vogwill and Bayley Wooldridge featuring for the first team. Claire Dique, Stan Dunn, Rob Bloomer (second team captain), Paul Debenham, Alicia Nolan, Lizzie McCloud and Harry Andrews have all honed, or still sculp, their talents in Norfolk with Knights head coach Joe Stirling also occupying a similar role at the helm of the British charge for glory.
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Entry for the global showcase is free and Buttinger is certain that the world-class competition involving rising stars from China, Turkey, Taiwan and Hong Kong will attract plenty of interest at the university's main Sportspark arena.
'Visually it's like watching basketball and netball but tactically it's like football in terms of moving into space. It's a very tactical game but it's fast-paced and brilliant to watch,' said the 62-year-old who regularly still gets involved with plenty of eight-player action himself.
'There's bags of space inside the arena so we hope people come down and have a look at the sport, especially if they haven't before. Matches do not cost anything to watch, six schools are coming at different times and we hope for a large crowd of maybe 200 or more to support the GB teams on Saturday.
'It's (korfball) one of our best-kept secrets. People who do see it, or play it for the first time, tend to really enjoy it. The amount of people who start playing and then continue is quite high compared to most other sports. This is a great platform to show what korfball is all about and it makes us feel proud.'
See today's paper (Thursday, April 16) for a full schedule of the championship.