The origins of Handball are a subject of great debate. One view is that it was invented in Germany, back in the late 19th century, as an outdoor sport to keep soccer players fit during the summer months. Outdoor Handball involved 11 players on each side and was played on a virtually fullsize turf soccer ground with soccer goals. It was mainly played with soccer rules, except it was played with the hands and kicking the ball was illegal rather than the other way round. However, there are records of handballstyle games going back to antiquity. The sport was depicted on a tombstone carving in Athens dated 600BC. The first match of the modern era was officially recorded on 29 October 1917 in Berlin, Germany. Outdoor Handball had its only Olympic Games appearance in the XIth Olympiad (1936 Berlin Games). The first international match recorded was played on 3 September 1925 with Germany defeating Austria, 6:3.
The sport's international governing body was first formed in 1928 as the Federation Internationale Handball Amateur, and took its current name in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1946 as the International Handball Federation (IHF). The IHF's first president was Avery Brundage an American who went on to become president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Indoor Handball was invented in the 1940s in Denmark. This is a 7aside game, played on a court slightly larger than a basketball court with smaller goals than its outdoor counterpart. Again, this sport flourished in the Germanic nations where it was hoped that it would appeal to a wider audience. With rules from other sports like basketball being introduced, this made the game simpler to play and more exciting to watch. The fact that it became a winter sport added to the spectator appeal being away from the cold, seated in comfort, with more action and excitement and higher scores than soccer. The sport is now played all over the world and was reintroduced as an Olympic event for the XXth Olympiad (1972 Munich Games).
Handball has always been a sport dominated by the European nations. In its formative years as an outdoor game, Germany, Austria and Denmark dominated in the international sphere, even though not many other nations outside Europe were playing the game.
After World War II, and the introduction of the indoor game, the Eastern Europeans quickly become competitive and were soon dominating the sport. Nations like the Soviet Union, Romania, Yugoslavia, East Germany and Hungary were regularly in the top three in most of the male and female international competitions. Only Sweden showed any significant resistance to the Eastern Bloc.
With the conclusion of the cold war and the collapse of the Eastern Bloc alliance, many of these nations suffered a temporary economic downturn which effected some of the national teams to lose the winning edge and a number of prominent players and coaches migrating to the west. Countries like France, Spain and Germany began to dominate. Some African (Algeria and Egypt) and Asian (South Korea and China) nations started to make an impact on the international competitions (especially the Olympics) in the late 1980s early 1990s.
The indoor game is now the more popular of the two types of handball. The outdoor variety is rarely played these days mainly for special occasions or by purists.
In recent years, a new outdoor version has emerged called Beach Handball, played naturally on the sands of a beach. This variety is now recognised by the IHF and now has formal rules.
Handball is now played on every habitable continent on this planet. It is estimated that about 7 million players are registered with a club. Many of the European clubs are professional and professional clubs in Asia (in South Korea, China and Japan) are becoming established and are considered as very competitive on the international stage. Africa, Americas and Oceania (our region) mainly comprise of amateur clubs but are very enthusiastic.
The UK has a small but thriving community of handball clubs in most parts of the country, and welcomes participation by members of both sexes and of all ages.
Rules And Regulations
The Court: As per the rules laid down by the International Handball Federation (IHF), the dimensions of the playing court should be 40 meter by 20 meter. That means that is a 40 meter long 20 meter wide rectangle. It has two goal areas and a single playing area. There is a compulsory safety zone on the periphery of the playing court, having a width of at least 1 meter along the sidelines and around 2 meters behind the goal lines. Longer boundary lines are the sidelines and lines between the goal posts are called the goal lines. Each goal in the playing area is marked by a 6 meter goal area, joined by a tangent at the center. The goals need to have net, attached in a way that it does not let the ball move out. The goal posts and crossbar need to have 8 cm square cross section. The rules of handball also permit a difference in the color of lines between two adjacent areas of the floor. Outside the goal line, there is another arc, 9 meters from the posts. This is called the free throw line and is normally dashed. For restart, there is the halfway line with a center dot. Thanks to Olympics, some of us know the nitty gritties of handball.
The Players: On the whole, there are 7 players on the field and 7 players are substitutes. So from one team there cannot be more than 14 players. On the field, there are six players and 1 goal keeper from a team. At the start of the play, according to the handball rules and regulations laid down by the IHF, a minimum of 5 players should be on the field. A game might continue without 5 players as well, but that is totally the referee's prerogative. A maximum of 4 officials are allowed per team, be it the Team Handball rules or European Handball rules. Another interesting rule laid down is that at any point of time whilst the game is in progress, a court player can be designated as the goal keeper and vice versa. But those involved in substitution have to leave and enter the court over the substitution line of their respective team.
The Ball: The ball is made of leather or a synthetic material and the surface must not be either shiny or slippery. The circumference and weight according to the categories of teams playing are:
- For men above 16 years, it is 58 to 60 cm and the weight is 425-475 grams. This is the IHF size 3.
- For women above 14, and male youth in the age of 12 to 16, the circumference of the ball is 54-56 cm and the weight is between 325 and 375 grams.
- For boys and girls in the age group between 8 and 14 (girls 8-14 and boys 8-12), the circumference of the ball is 50 to 52 cm and the weight is between 290 to 330 grams.
There are atleast 2 balls available and the reserve must be readily available, as laid down in the team handball rules by the IHF.
Ball Playing: There are three basic ball playing rules involving the number 3.
- Three seconds you hold the ball and then pass.
- Only three steps when the ball is in your hand.
- When awarded a free throw, a player needs to be at a distance of 3 meters from another player.
A goal is said to be scored when the ball crosses the back goal line completely within the goal. In the goal area, the goalkeeper reigns supreme. Even if there is a violation of rules by the defender and still the ball goes in the goal. If a player scores in his team's goal, the other side gets the point. A goal declared by the referee cannot be taken back or disallowed in the course of the game and the entry of the goal is mandatory as said in the handball rules and regulations by the IHF.
Pulling or hitting the ball out of the opponent's hand, blocking and forcing the opponent using legs, hands or arms and threatening or endangering a player with or sans the ball are the top three fouls and these things are not permitted. If a player is fouled, while he or she is taking a certain shot at the goal, the player gets a 7 meter free shot.
Penalty or Punishment:
For a foul play, normally the referee gives a yellow card or if the foul or contact is too serious, the referee can give the player an instant 2-minute suspension. If a player gets more than 2 such suspensions, he or she gets a red card, as per the team handball rules. A red card results in disqualification and the player has to go off the court. A referee or another player's assault can lead to expulsion of the player. This means that the player cannot play for the rest of the game. Any objection or gestures or argument with the referee can lead to 2-min suspension.