Handball History, Rules and How to Play

Handball was invented by Nicolaj Ernst in 1897 in Nyborg, in Denmark. It is an indoor game played between two teams, containing a total of 7 players each. In the game, the players pass the ball with their hands and try to score by throwing the ball into the goal of the opponent team. Each team contains 6 outfield players and one goalkeeper. A Handball game is played over two half, each 30 minutes long and the team with the most goals at the end wins the game. There are more than 27 million Handball players right now. Handball is governed by the International Handball Federation (IHF), which was formed on 11th July 1946 and has its headquarters at Basel, Switzerland.

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A standard Handball court is 40 meters long and 20 meters wide, and the goals are surrounded by a zone of 6 meters, called the D Zone, where only the goalkeeper is allowed. Goals can only be scored by throwing the ball from outside this box or by diving into the box. Body contact is only allowed for defenders who are trying to stop attackers from approaching the goal. A normal Handball game is generally a high scoring event.

Even though Handball is an indoor event, outdoor variants do exist, like the Beach Handball. Handball was first introduced in the Olympic Games in 1936. It was next demonstrated in the 1952 Olympics. It was reentered as a part of the Olympic program in 1972 and has been a part of the Olympics ever since. Women’s Handball was added to the Olympic games in 1976.

Handball History

The earliest form of Handball ever played was the expulsim ludere, an ancient version of the modern Handball played by Roman women. Similar games, resembling modern Handball, were played in Medieval France and in Greenland during the Middle Ages. By the 19th century, Handball had gained popularity and was played around Europe.

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By the end of 19th century, the Handball was assembled as a team game around northern Europe. The first set of rules were published by Holger Nielsen of Copenhagen, in 1906. These rules were further modified and published by  Max Heiser, Karl Schelenz and Erich Konigh from Germany in 1917. Karl Schelenz made additional improvements in these rules after 1919.

The first international Handball games were played by following these rules in 1925 between the men’s teams of Germany and Belgium. In 1930, the first women’s international games were played between Germany and Austria. Further amendments of the rules were required and for this reason the International Amateur Handball Federation was formed in 1928, which eventually gave way to the International Handball Federation in 1946. The International Handball Federation currently organizes Handball World Championships every two years.

Handball Rules

The following rules are applicable to a game of Handball:

  • On receiving the ball, a player has three options. He can choose to pass, keep possession or shoot the ball.
  • When in possession of the ball, the player must dribble, in a movement similar to the basketball dribble. He can also take up to three steps at a time instead, within three seconds, when not dribbling. Once he takes the three steps, he cannot dribble again, and must pass the ball, or else it will be a double dribble offense.
  • The D Zone or the 6 meter zone around the goal is meant for the defending goalkeeper alone and no other players are allowed inside the area. A shot or pass which is completed before touching the floor of the D zone is considered valid. Goalkeepers can come out of the D zone, but cannot carry the ball while crossing the boundary.
  • Goalkeepers should have a clothing differing from the other 6 outfield players of his or her team.
  • When the goalkeeper is positioned in the D Zone, the ball cannot be passed back to him or her.
  • Doubling is allowed, which is when a diving attacking player passes the ball to another diving attacking player.

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  • 3 time outs are allowed in each game, and a team can opt for up to 2 time outs in one half.
  • A Handball game is officiated by two referees. They are assisted by a timekeeper and a scorekeeper.
  • Substitution can be carried out without prior notification to the referees. Unlimited substitutions are allowed all through the game. A goalkeeper can be substituted by a outfield player.
  • Players can touch the ball with their knee and any part of the body above the knee. Unlimited dribbles are allowed as long as the hand touches only the top of the ball during dribble. Carrying the ball is completely forbidden
  • There are five types of Throws awarded in a Handball game. These are Throw-off, which takes place from the center of the court; Throw-in, from the sidelines; Goalkeeper Throws; Free-Throws, similar to free kicks in football; and the Seven Meter Throw, awarded when a clean chance at goal is unlawfully prevented.
  • Yellow cards are shown as a warning for an illegal action in the game. For dangerous contacts, like hitting the opponent on the head, neck or throat, a two minute suspension is given to the player. A player can receive only two 2 minute suspensions in a game, after that he is shown the Red Card. Red Card warrants ejection from the game and results in a two minute penalty for the team. After the two minute penalty, the team is allowed to substitute the Red Carded player with another player.
  • Arguing with the referee or show of dissent can result in two minute suspensions.

How to Play Handball

Before starting the game, it is important to be familiar with the Handball court. Make sure all the participants are aware of the ground and are well versed in the rules of the game. In case of any doubts, it is important to take help of experienced trainers to ascertain that the game is played properly. Ensure that the participants are familiar with the ball as well. All participants must be aware of the penalties and the rule violations. Ideally, two referees have to be appointed to preside over the game and spot those violations.

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Form two teams with 7 players each and keep other players as substitute. Every player must learn to work as a team, because Handball is a team sport. Passing the ball works better than dribbling, as it is faster, however, sometimes dribbling is necessary to open up defenses. A player can use one hand for shielding while dribbling with the other hand. During defending, a player can spread their arms so that shots can be blocked.

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The most important aspect of any game is practice and Handball too can be improved with practice. Try out different tactics, use different tactical formations and learn to master the transition from offense to defense. However, it is also important to be safe during playing and during practice. Ensure your safety and the safety of your teammates during the games. Do not hit anyone intentionally during playing as it can cause severe injuries.

Handball is a very entertaining game, so play hard, score a lot of goals and enjoy your time.

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