Only 12 months ago, we could not have imagined that the Europa Cup and Europa Shield in January would be the only two international korfball events in the whole of 2020. Many korfball organisations were also banned from organising any leagues or championships at national level. For sure, this has been the most difficult year for the development of our sport since many decades, with multiple national organisations fighting for survival. Our sport thrives because it is based around social relationships: competition and training are a means to bring people together.
At the same time, we see many signs of hope that demonstrate the resilience of our global community. Many national organisations have taken initiatives for online courses. Within the IKF, we have struggled a bit to get this started, but some excellent initiatives in particular by Jorge Alves of the Playing Rules and Referees Committee have demonstrated the need. We are happy to have Jorge on board in our Executive Committee now as we need to further expand such online activities, also beyond the current pandemic. Others have developed alternative formats of play and training within the limitations of social distancing.
The true sign of hope, however, is the arrival of the first vaccines. At the end of 2020 many countries have started the inoculation of their population. In the end, the medical and logistics efforts that make vaccines available on a wide scale will enable global sports to recover. It will however require quite a bit patience on the side of many: inoculating billions of people around the globe will take time. Sadly, the pace will be different in different countries, with many of the poorer countries being supplied late in the process.
The IKF is confident that in 2021 international competitions will resume. The continental championships in Europe (Belgium and Poland) will provide a first big opportunity for many countries to meet. We are also hopeful for Oceania to host a meet between Australia and New Zealand some time soon, and are currently seeking hosts for the Panamerican and African Championships to be held in late 2021 or early 2022.
For the earlier events in 2021, notably the U19 World Korfball Championship in the Czech Republic (April), the U21 World Korfball Championship in Chinese Taipei (July), the U21 European Korfball Championship Round 1 in France (July) and the World Beach Korfball Championship in Morocco (July), and the Asian Korfball Championship in Korea (August) we are in close contact with the hosts to define the conditions under which these can take place. These may include testing and/or vaccination requirements, albeit that we do need to recognise that for events that are scheduled earlier in the year we still need to take into account the option of cancellation or postponement. There will only be a gradual way out of the pandemic, and this gradual way will take some years.
I am confident, however, that we are able to have our World Korfball Congress in Belgium in October 2021. It is an excellent occasion to congratulate the Royal Belgian Korfball Federation with their 100th anniversary. We will definitely look at hybrid online/in-person options of presenting the Congress, but our expectation is that this Congress should allow for many of us to meet in-person in Antwerp. In the end, if there is one learning from the pandemic, it is that our community thrives because of personal contacts. A 3D meeting – ideally with touch and feel – build the relationships that are the foundation for our global community, and online meetings in 2D can only partially supplement this.
The IKF Council wishes all of you a good recovery from the pandemic, both individually with your families and for your national korfball organisations, korfball clubs, and korfball schools. We wish you all the best for the year to come, and hope to be in touch with many of you, ideally in-person, but definitely online.