Handball is an exciting and action-packed team sport which is great fun to play. It is recognized as the fastest ball sport in the world and has become a massive hit in Britain after the successful London 2012 Olympic Games.
It is a team sport played on an indoor court in which two teams of seven players (six outfield players and a goalkeeper) pass a ball to throw it into the goal of the other team. A standard match consists of two periods of 30 minutes, and the team with the most goals scored wins.
The game is fast and very physical as the defenders try to stop the attackers from approaching the goal. Players rely on feints, body swerves and huge leaps in the air to pass, control the ball and shoot. The six outfield players are made up of two wings, two half players, a centre and a line player.
Typically, all players will play in both defence and attack. Court players may propel the ball with any part of their body above the knee (they may not kick it), but may only hold the ball for a maximum of three seconds, and take a maximum of three steps while holding it. Goalkeepers may touch the ball with any part of the body while in the goal area and are not restricted by the three-second/three-steps rule. A goalkeeper may leave the goal area when not in possession of the ball, and may then participate in the game as any other court player. Court players may not pass the ball back to the goalkeeper when he/she is in the goal area.
The standard court size is 40×20 metres and the game is officiated by two referees. Goals are scored quite frequently; usually both teams score at least 20 goals each, and it is not uncommon for teams to score more than 30 goals.
Games similar to modern Handball have been played since the times of the ancient Greeks, who played something called Urania where a ball the size of an apple was thrown from hand to hand. Versions of Handball were also played in the Middle Ages in countries across Europe and even by the Inuit peoples of Greenland.
But the game as we know it evolved in northern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Danish teacher Holger Nielsen drew up the first rules of modern Handball in 1898 and these were further developed by the German trio of Max Heiser, Karl Schelenz and Erich Konigh. The first international match of Handball was played between Germany and Belgium in 1925, while the first women’s match saw Germany play Austria in 1930.
The International Amateur Handball Federation (IAHF) was set up in 1928 on the occasion of the Olympic Games in Amsterdam. This led to the first official Olympic appearance of the sport in Berlin in 1936 and the first World Championships in the same city two years later.
The International Handball Federation (IHF) was founded in 1946 by eight member nations; Denmark, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and Switzerland. By this time the sport was hugely popular in these nations and others across Europe. The sport re-entered the Olympics in Munich in 1974 and has remained an ever present at Olympic Games ever since. Today Handball is a truly global sport, with 170 IHF members and 795,000 teams across the world.