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“Handball” is a deceptive name for this fast and furious sport. You may immediately think of football’s ultimate sin, but handball is actually a high octane Olympic sport in its own right. A cross between football and basketball, the game is all about high speed, quick passes and precision, an impressive combination when you consider that the men average about 6ft 3in tall, and most of the women measure in at over 5ft 11in!
• Handball is the second largest sport in Europe
• The goalkeeper is the only player who can touch the ball with his feet (other players can touch the ball with any body part except lower leg and foot)
• The origins of the game are thought to date back to ancient Greece
• Sweden’s best known goalkeepers are respected worldwide for being best friends!
Originally a ‘poor man’s sport’, handball was first introduced by the Irish in the 19th century. The US revived the game into a modern sport demanding mental strategy and technical agility. Teams of seven, made up of six outfield players and one goalkeeper, play on indoor courts measuring 40m by 20m. The aim is to throw the ball between team-mates and score points by hurling the ball into goals similar to those used in hockey.
When we say it’s fast, we mean it! In handball it’s not uncommon to see 50 goals in a single 60-minute match. Herein lies its health benefits: the high intensity provides an excellent cardiovascular workout with an estimated 610 calories burned per hour; the exertion of throwing the ball at speed builds lean muscle (deltoid, quadriceps, abdominals); the team nature develops communication skills; and perhaps most attractively, handball is a sport that requires very little equipment and is easy to pick up.
• The attacking players can’t hold the ball for more than 3 seconds or take more than 3 steps with the ball
• The defending players can’t leave the goal area with the ball
• Progressive punishment is given to players who do not follow the “fair play” rules
• Within the team, players are interchangeable during the game
• The goal is 2m high by 3m wide
• Playing time is varied and is up to 2×30 minutes in an official game
• A winning team is given 2 points; if there is a draw each team is awarded 1 point each
For a casual game the answer is simply yourself, a few friends, a handball and a net. A pair of trainers will also help. Players rely on body swerves, feints and huge leaps in the air to pass, shoot and generally control the ball. As a result, body-checks that send players crashing to the ground are frequent but handball isn’t a dangerous game. It’s based on “fair play” principles, and protective equipment can be worn if it’s a particularly physical game.