Passion, skill and unity drive England in top six quest
England has featured in every IKF World Korfball Championship, playing as Great Britain before 2007. They won the bronze medal in 1987 and 1999, finished fourth in 2015, and have never finished outside the top eight. This year their main goal is to finish in the top six, and therefore secure a place at the World Games 2021, Birmingham, USA.
This will be the third IKF WKC for Neala Brennan, in a squad where most of the players have had plenty of korfball together, as she explains.
“Most of us started at school age, either through local clubs or through primary school. Many of the players have grown up playing for the same club team, whether it’s in Norwich, London or Kent. Most of our players have been part of England squads from U14 through to senior level.
“We have a number of younger players coming through the age groups. One exciting female player to watch is Ayishah Chaudry, who is only 19 years old. Ayishah combines speed and athleticism with the ability to read the game, which is a great combination, and she will be a terrific asset for England.
“One of our more experienced players to watch for is Davesh Patel. He has had one of his best seasons and is on great form for the IKF WKC,” she says.
More important than individuals, though, Neala believes the way the squad as a whole handles the overall challenge will determine their success at the IKF WKC 2019.
“I always think the biggest pressure at important tournaments is the ability to play well for a number of games. For teams to be successful the players have to handle the stressful situations. They need to perform at their best and actually turn up and play good korfball. If we focus on one game at a time, that will help us to perform. However, we also have some very experienced players in the team, who will lead the way,” she says.
Neala characterises England’s team, coached at this tournament by long term international player Rob Williams, as passionate, skillful and united.
“Since February we have combined England training with our league training and games. Since the domestic season finished in June, we have increased the intensity and frequency of our training, using whole squad training at weekends, while area groups train together during the week,” she says.
That commitment comes with sacrifice, which Neala would like to see more generously rewarded.
“In common with many squads at the tournament, most of our players would love to have greater recognition of the commitment of time, hard work and finances that go into playing international korfball. More widely shared financial support, or greater sponsorship for players and federations in countries whose governments provide no funding, would lead to more competitive tournaments and increased prestige and participation in korfball,” she says.
England will play Hong Kong, Slovakia and Belgium in their pool, with their match against their European rival and neighbour on the third day shaping as one of the most eagerly awaited pool games as the IKF third ranked team goes up against number six.
“We always look forward to playing Belgium, especially with it being so close last year, when they beat us 22-17 at the IKF European Korfball Championship 2018. We are looking forward to seeing what our new squad can do against them, and how we compare,” she says.
#TeamENG IKF WKC 2019
2: Shannon Jones
5: Heather Ikwuemesi
6: Heather Stokes
7: Charles Vogwill
8: Adele Mitchell
9: Ayishah Chaudry
10: Neala Brennan
14: Blake Palfreyman
15: Paul Debenham
16: Davesh Patel
17: Robert Williams
18: Kieron Hicks
20: Emma Bryant
22: Joshua Rowe
24: Beatrice Cutts
Coach: Robert Williams
Manager: Beatrice Cutts
Assistant Coach: Kees Vlietstra