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Handball
SAP Arena Handball ausverkauft.jpg
A handball game in progress at SAP Arena in Mannheim, Germany
Highest governing body IHF
First played 2 December 1917 in Berlin, Germany.
Registered players > 27 million (2016)
Characteristics
Contact Limited
Team members 7 per side (including goalkeeper)
Mixed gender separate competitions
Type Team sport, ball sport
Equipment Ball and goals
Venue Indoor court
Presence
Country or region Worldwide (most popular in Europe)
Olympic Part of Summer Olympic programme in 1936.
Demonstrated at the 1952 Summer Olympics.
Returned to the Summer Olympic programme in 1972.
Sydney 2000 Olympic handball
Handball game

Handball (also known as team handball, field handball or Olympic handball) is a team sport similar to football (soccer). Two teams of 7 players each (six players and a goalkeeper) pass and bounce a ball using the hands, trying to throw it into the goal of the other team. Games are an hour of playing time, divided into 30-minute halves, with 15 minutes break at halftime.

The size of the court is a little bigger than a basketball court, 40 meters by 20 meters, which is the same court as indoor soccer. It has a six meter line which no one but the goalie is allowed to have possession of the ball and touching the ground. If this happens, a foul is called and the player committing the foul gets ejected, (sitting out of the game for two minutes, five minutes, or the rest of the game). There are seven players total on a team handball, six players and a goalie. Most historians agree that handball predates soccer, (football) but that is not for certain.

Origins and development

Handball pick-a-back Ancient Greece
A picture copied from an amphora shows youths playing a version of handball, circa 500 B.C.
Stamps of Germany (DDR) 1972, MiNr 1757
A postage stamp from East Germany depicting handball at the 1972 Olympics

Games similar to handball were played in Ancient Greece and are represented on amphoras and stone carvings. Although detailed textual reference is rare, there are numerous descriptions of ball games being played where players throw the ball to one another; sometimes this is done in order to avoid interception by a player on the opposing team. Such games were played widely and served as both a form of exercise and a social event.

There is evidence of ancient Roman women playing a version of handball called expulsim ludere. There are records of handball-like games in medieval France, and among the Inuit in Greenland, in the Middle Ages. By the 19th century, there existed similar games of håndbold from Denmark, házená in the Czech Republic, handbol in Ukraine, and torball in Germany.

The team handball game of today was codified at the end of the 19th century in northern Europe: primarily in Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden. The first written set of team handball rules was published in 1906 by the Danish gym teacher, lieutenant and Olympic medalist Holger Nielsen from Ordrup grammar school, north of Copenhagen. The modern set of rules was published on 29 October 1917 by Max Heiser, Karl Schelenz, and Erich Konigh from Berlin, Germany; this day is therefore seen as the "date of birth" of the sport. The first ever official handball match was played on 2 December 1917 in Berlin. After 1919 the rules were improved by Karl Schelenz. The first international games were played under these rules, between Germany and Austria by men in 1925 and between Germany and Austria by women in 1930.

In 1926, the Congress of the International Amateur Athletics Federation nominated a committee to draw up international rules for field handball. The International Amateur Handball Federation was formed in 1928 and later the International Handball Federation was formed in 1946.

Men's field handball was played at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. During the next several decades, indoor handball flourished and evolved in the Scandinavian countries. The sport re-emerged onto the world stage as team handball for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Women's team handball was added at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Due to its popularity in the region, the Eastern European countries that refined the event became the dominant force in the sport when it was reintroduced.

The International Handball Federation organised the men's world championship in 1938 and every four (sometimes three) years from World War II to 1995. Since the 1995 world championship in Iceland, the competition has been held every two years. The women's world championship has been held since 1957. The IHF also organizes women's and men's junior world championships. By July 2009, the IHF listed 166 member federations - approximately 795,000 teams and 19 million players.

Rules

Unless otherwise noted, the rules described are the official international rules provided by the International Handball Federation (IHF).

Summary

The handball playing field is similar to an indoor football field. Two teams of seven players (six field players plus one goalkeeper) take the field and attempt to score points by putting the game ball into the opposing team's goal. In handling the ball, players are subject to the following restrictions:

  • After receiving the ball, players can only hold the ball for three seconds before passing, dribbling (similar to a basketball dribble), or shooting.
  • After receiving the ball, players can take up to three steps without dribbling. If players dribble, they may take an additional three steps.
  • Players that stop dribbling have three seconds to pass or shoot. They may take three additional steps during this time.
  • No players other than the defending goalkeeper are allowed within the goal line (within 6 meters of the goal). Goalkeepers are allowed outside this line.

Playing field

Handballfeld
Schematic diagram of a handball playing field (German captions).

Handball is played on a court 40 by 20 metres (131 ft × 66 ft), with a goal in the center of each end. The goals are surrounded by a near-semicircular area, called the zone or the crease, defined by a line six meters from the goal. A dashed near-semicircular line nine meters from the goal marks the free-throw line. Each line on the court is part of the area it encompasses. This implies that the middle line belongs to both halves at the same time.

Goals

Each goal has a rectangular clearance area of three meters in the width and two meters in the height. It must be securely bolted either to the floor or the wall behind.

The goal posts and the crossbar must be made out of the same material (e.g. wood or aluminium) and feature a quadratic cross section with a side of 8 cm (3 in). The three sides of the beams visible from the playing field must be painted alternatingly in two contrasting colors which both have to contrast against the background. The colors on both goals must be the same.

Each goal must feature a net. This must be fastened in such a way that a ball thrown into does not leave or pass the goal under normal circumstances. If necessary, a se

Goal perimeter

The goals are surrounded by the crease. This area is delimited by two quarter circles with a radius of six meters around the far corners of each goal post and a connecting line parallel to the goal line. Only the defending goalkeeper is allowed inside this perimeter. However, the court players may catch and touch the ball in the air within it as long as the player starts his jump outside the zone and releases the ball before he lands.

If a player contacts the ground inside the goal perimeter he must take the most direct path out of it. However, should a player cross the zone in an attempt to gain an advantage (e.g. better position) his team cedes the ball. Similarly, violation of the zone by a defending player is only penalized if he does so to gain an advantage in defending.

Substitution area

Outside of one long edge of the playing field to both sides of the middle line are the substitution areas for each team. The areas usually contain the benches as seating opportunities. Team officials, substitutes and suspended players must wait within this area. The area always lies to the same side as the team's own goal. During half-time substitution areas are swapped. Any player entering or leaving the play must cross the substitution line which is part of the side line and extends 4.5 meters from the middle line to the team's side.

Duration

Team Time Out Handball
Team timeout.

A standard match for all teams of 16 and older has two periods of 30 minutes with a 10 minute half-time. Teams may switch sides of the field, as well as benches. For youths the game duration is:

  • 2 x 25 minutes at ages 12 to 16.
  • 2 x 20 minutes at ages 8 to 12.

However, national federations of some countries may differ in their implementation from the official guidelines.

If a decision must be reached in a particular match (e.g. in a tournament) and it ends in a draw after regular time, there are at maximum two overtimes of 2 x 5 minutes with a 1 minute break each. Should these not decide the game either, the winning team is determined in a penalty shootout.

The referees may call timeout according to their sole discretion, typical reasons are injuries, suspensions or court cleaning. Penalty throws should only trigger a timeout for lengthy delays as a change of the goalkeeper.

Each team may call one team timeout (TTO) per period which lasts one minute. This right may only be invoked by team in ball possession. To do so, the representative of the team lays a green card marked by black "T" on the desk of the timekeeper. The timekeeper then immediately interrupts the game by sounding an acoustic signal and stops the time.

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