U21 World Korfball Championship 2018 Final Verdict
The first edition of the U21 World Korfball Championships are behind us for just over a week now. Life returns to normal for all involved. Perhaps some relive their glory a bit more or review their failure. Most are enjoying Summer destinations. Time to give our final verdict of this world championship of korfball talents.
Let's start with the conclusion about global presence. Two of the four continents fail to send any representative to this championship. Dominican Republic with a late withdrawal due to missing out of the government funding that makes them a rising star in the korfball world. Africa probably fails to have any funding, looking at the recently held African Championships with only three countries participating. Also it's doubtful that any of the African countries consider setting up a U21 squad, let alone actually have one. Although korfball in Africa is on the rise, it's organisational level seems below what is needed to earn a spot in this championship.
As for the two participating continents for us Asia earns their points. Our verdict is that a next edition should have a more equal balance between Europe and Asia. This is partly due to the shame we feel that Germany and England bring to Europe in this event. For us they fail to show their position on the IKF ranking. An Asian location for the next U21 World Korfball Championship will make a difference in the balance is Europe and Asia. The time that China needs to get to a level to win games is a point of worry though. Compared to the halfway verdict, China is more up to the level that fits their IKF ranking. We also see that they are vulnerable. In general Asian korfball looks less 'mature' to us and in part relies on how referees deal with forced running-ins.
The Tall And The Not So Tall
The height difference may stay as an issue for some Asian countries as long as The Netherlands and Belgium keep selecting on height. Perhaps the 'innovators' in Holland should consider stopping their fascination with height as a deciding factor on how good a player can be instead of spending time on things like dynamic korfball, playing in quarters and prohibiting penalty specialists, to name but a few ideas that pop up. When being around the players of the different countries, actually average height is increasing. Still some countries have shorter players in their starting lineups and then mainly women. It seems harder to attract taller women to korfball than taller men. Even Belgium, that starts to follow the same pattern as The Netherlands, has relatively short girls. Also they have one exception with their tall guys with Thomas Thijs. He is such an exception talent that the ten centimetres he may lack according to Dutch standards are more than compensated. We wonder if he would have been spotted as a national squad player in The Netherlands...
This focus on height puts korfball in competition with sports like basketball and volleyball, where height is an advantage. We wonder if height is such a deciding factor in the concepts that underly korfball that you have to put it so much at the core of the selection criteria as The Netherlands do. We feel it can actually hurt the growth of korfball as a world sport.
Top 6 Success And Shame
Of the countries supported in the so called Top6 program we see mixed results here. The negative part of these results are valued by us as so bad that we vote for a thorough evaluation of support to England and Germany. In an interview with Dutch korfball news site korfbal.nl, KNKV director Kees Rodenburg says that he disagrees with choices made by these countries, but they have no say in these choices. Our view is that when you pay, you have a say. Countries are always free to make their own choices. When these choices go against what you pay for, you are also free to stop paying. Despite the sympathy factor that England usually has with us and the popularity of the video interviews we do with their players, our verdict is that the budget spent on them is better spent on countries like Turkey, Ukraine or Hungary or an increase of budget for Czech Republic and Portugal.
The latter two countries show what is possible with the right passion and drive to go for success. Sadly the Czech squad choked in the cross final game against China. Besides that they have a capable squad that can benefit from intensifying the program. The same goes for Portugal that is fairly close to the bronze in their final game. With now two trainings a week without a specific physical program there is room for improvement that will surely pay off. If one squad shows they want to win all their games during this championship, it's Portugal. Our foundation is open to support Portugal in taking a next step in intensifying their national squad program.
Gender Equity at Risk
Just as height is lacking with the female athletes present at this U21 World Korfball Championship, so is the scoring. "The most scoring player is female and a second woman is in the top 5, so what's wrong," you say? Well, the fact that after these two scoring machines Fu and Gerlich the scoring of women is significantly less than their male counterparts. We as korfball promote gender equity loudly and at the same time our scoring is dominated by men. We think some simple adjustments can change this.
Why are most penalty and free pass takers male? Especially the penalties seem to be something only a strong man can do in this event. What is wrong with female penalty takers? Are they nervous, shy, insecure? Correia of Portugal is a female penalty taker in Budapest. She misses some penalties now, that's right. She is an exception though as a woman penalty taker.
Countries like Taiwan and Dominican Republic score partly because they have scoring women. We feel that the fault lies with the training programs. We raise our girls to be assisting players. Working with new korfball countries where women come from a basketball background show that they score because they are trained and selected on scoring. Our verdict is to stop promoting gender equity with words and start putting it into the training choices.
Country by Country
Working our way down from the silver, we give our final verdict for each country.
Belgium seems back in the game with the squad they have on the pitch in Budapest. Tall guys with options to choose from make them a fairly equal opponent to The Netherlands. Missing Thomas Thijs in the final may have cost them the gold. We feel that the lack of female goals also cost them the gold. On the female side Belgium has more to win yet. Still they give Taiwan food for thought for the next years. In Durban next year with the regular adult squads the balance between Belgium and Taiwan may be different as Belgium seems more in a transition with various players quitting after the 2017 World Games.
Taiwan set out to reach the final. Some players even openly say they want to beat The Netherlands. They miss out on both intentions. Their results in all games leading up to the cross finals against Belgium are an indication of this. They score less goals and need to put more effort in scoring than Belgium and The Netherlands. This way we see no progress with Taiwan. They even almost lose the bronze. We wonder what the missing piece of the puzzle is for Taiwan to close the gap to Belgium, at least with this age group.
Portugal shows what it is to be a squad willing to win. With this squad Portugal seems back on track after a weaker period in different championships, mainly with the adults. Our verdict is that with a more intense program, a stronger bench in numbers and further growth in athletic base level of players they can be the third country in Europe. Some of the players of this squad are in the squad of Portugal for the European Championships in October. There we will see how they do with the adult squad. We also love to see how they bring continuity in their squads with the next group.
The Chinese Dragon kept breathing fire in the final games. They break the Czechs despite them holding Fu down. They escape the Hungarian horde with their supporters, although at a cost. That game ends with an upset and insulted China. The result is a fifth place. The hope of China leading us to Olympic heaven is still alive. It looks like a rocky road uphill after this performance. They have a few years to work on their start in a championship and dealing with weaker elements in their performance. In four years they should be able to beat Taiwan in an Asian clash and have a chance to be in the top 4 in order to really be called a success. Right now we doubt if it will happen.
Hungary almost finishes fifth in their own country. They work hard on both organisation of this event and on putting a quality squad on the pitch. Our verdict is that with the squad they are not there yet. The staff works hard to realise an optimal performance. We think the squad lacks physical strength and endurance to perform consistently in a championship with so many games as this one has in a short period. Also one or two players we consider key players underperform in our view. At the same time we see unexpected heroes rise up like Kristof Bellusz. Their sixth place is not quite their own work. The performance in the game for fifth place is open for debate, also with us. We say they can do better and deserve support to do better. Hungary can benefit from being in the Top6 or another form of support for their national squads program.
Czechia puts on a fine squad with some potential great players. Havlová is one of this squad that is also in the adult squad and more will follow the coming years for sure. They seem to have a great team spirit which fails them when they play the cross finals. The lack of height and scoring with the women seems their main flaw. We feel they can also grow in physical strength with a more intense program. Their preparation surely is long enough, starting end of 2017 with the Korfball Challenge in The Netherlands. Like with Portugal we look forward to seeing how they do with the next generations to ensure continuity in their level.
Hong Kong shows steady progress. They play disciplined and work well within their skills. They can't seriously threaten The Netherlands while they keep focusing on height as main quality in a player. Otherwise we are pleasantly surprised by the squad. It shows that Hong Kong as a country has a high income level, so that they can bring a decent squad to this championship. We feel this is a factor that will keep Hong Kong as a stronger Asian player in the korfball arena for championships held outside of Asia.
England is our main source of video views. If their performance on the pitch would be near the interest from the home front, they would be in the top 5. Now they are lucky winner of ninth place. Result is a harsh thing to deal with when there is also sympathy. This is a championship in competitive sports and in the end it's the result that counts. The result is bad. Many will be the reasons various parties involved give. Brave and professional are the players that give their interviews. The players themselves can hardly be blamed for the result. Also the staff is not the target of our harsh verdict. Our verdict though is that this result is unworthy for the place England claims in korfball. Shame. Go fix this and give us more reasons to interview players and staff that give us so many views.
Turkey can look back at a good championship where they get to win games and even be close to ninth place. There is a lot to improve in this squad and that is promising for the future. We look forward to seeing their next steps. Some plans are in the making and we are curious what comes of them.
Germany is like Two-Face in this championship. For us the switch of coaches during the event is a switch for the better. It is too late to prevent a last place though. The attitude and level of play are so different between the first and second half of this world championship. For Lena Gerlich, who for us is one of the best players in this championship, it is extra sad that Germany shows this performance. For Germany also the result is bad. Shame. Go find more Lena Gerlichs and bring them to championships.
We feel the referees deserve a verdict too. The reason that we feel this is, is that there are comments from our side. Sadly in the korfball world it's dangerous to comment on referees. Still we do it.
Firstly we see a growing number of female referees on this championship. We think this is good. With the return of Tina van Grimberge we have one of the best referees around and a great female referee also. At the same time we wonder where the other female referees are we see on previous IKF championships.
We see some referees from Asia and Oceania. We particularly like mister Lee from Hong Kong. It seems that having competitions in these countries pays off in good referees.
Our comment is in that we feel that some referees perform below the level that fits a World Korfball Championship, also when it's U21. We have the impression that some referees are 'in training'. We are all for improving the level of international referees. We also strongly think that a World Korfball Championship is not the platform to educate referees. The talented athletes performing here deserve the best they can get. Firstly get out of the way that our target is not Peter Busik who referees the final. We feel he does well. Also he learned in The Netherlands. We call his path superior to educating referees at a World Korfball Championship. We look at the choice of referees of other deciding games in the last two days. These should have the best referees on the pitch as main referees, being Van der Terp and Van Grimberge. Historically the sensitivity in the country of the referee is with Belgium. They are not 'harmed' by a different way of assigning referees in this championship. Also in many other sports like ice hockey it's quality that is the deciding factor in who leads games. We urge IKF to start choosing quality for crucial games, ignoring any background like country or gender.