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History of Handball

Written by Serene Joshua, contributing writer.

In 1925, the first official handball game was played by men’s teams between Germany and Belgium.

By I Kid You Not , in Sports , at April 26, 2023 Tags:

Written by Serene Joshua, contributing writer.

Handball game is a team sport played by two teams that consist of seven players each.

What is the handball game?

As stated above, handball is an indoor sport where teams of 7 players (six players and a goalkeeper) compete by passing a small ball around, using their hands, and trying to score a goal in their opponent’s goalpost.

Think of it as football, but with the hands!

Its fast-paced and high-scoring nature makes the game fun to watch and even more exciting to play!

In this article we will look at

Handball history
Founder of handball
How to play handball
Handball rules
Fun Facts about handball

Did you know that handball is a part of the Olympics?

A short history of handball game

A bit below we will look at the history of handball in detail. Here’s a quick and short history of handball

  • Karl Schelenz, Max Heiser, and Erich Konigh published the first set of rules for the game in 1917.
  • In 1925, the first official handball game was played by men’s teams between Germany and Belgium
  • The way the game is played is that each team scores by throwing the ball in the opponent’s goalpost, whichever team scores the highest, wins.

History of Handball

The handball we know now is played indoors, on a basketball-like court. However, it started as an outdoor game.

In Ancient Rome, a game called Harpastum was played as a ball game. The ball was small in size and the objective of this game was to keep the ball in your own side of court for as long as possible. 

The Ancient Greeks played a game known as ‘Urania’ and this game is even mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey! This was played with a woolen ball that was thrown up in the air for the opponent team to catch.

There are records and evidence of people in Medieval France playing handball. However, this was nothing like the modern-day handball.

It all started in the 1900s with three different games- Haanbold from Denmark, Torball from Germany, and Hazena from Prague. These were getting very popular in Europe however since these games were so similar people wanted a unified version of these games.

Karl Schelenz, Max Heiser, and Erich Konigh undertook the task of unifying these games and they published the first set of rules for the game in 1917.

In 1925, the first official handball game was played by men’s teams between Germany and Belgium. Later on, the women’s game was played between Germany and Austria in 1930. However, these games were played outdoors!

In 1946, the Scandinavian took leadership and established the International Handball Federation in Copenhagen. 

Because of harsh Scandinavian winters, the federation decided to move the games indoors, and thus the indoor handball we know now was born!

Founder of Handball

Image Source: By Deutsche Fotothek‎, CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Wikimedia Commons

As mentioned before there were three different types of Handball games and this is how it all started.

Haanbold was invented in Denmark, by Hoger Nielsen a Danish gym teacher and Olympic gold medalist. In fact, in 1903 the first public match took place in Denmark.

Torball was invented in Germany by Hermann Bauchmann, and his rules were played with a court size similar to indoor handball.

Hazena was invented in Prague in 1905 by Vaclav Karas and his proposed goal area of 6 meters is still used!

Unifying into one game

All these three games were popular in Europe, but it was difficult to organize them internationally so there came about a need for a unified version of the games.

Karl Schelenz, Max Heiser, and Erich Konigh undertook the task of unifying these games and they published the first set of rules for the game in 1917.

All these games were still outdoors before the Scandinavians took over and made it the indoor handball game we know today.

How to play handball

Here are the basic steps on how to play handball and the handball rules.

  1. The game starts with a toss, the winner of this toss starts the game.
  2. After the toss, the game begins with a throw-off.
  3. The player who starts the game throws the ball to a teammate from the center of the court.
  4. Players can take a maximum of three steps and hold the ball for a maximum of three minutes before they pass.
  5. Once the game starts, the player must keep passing the ball and try to get it past the goal line in order for it to be a goal.
  6. The opposing team will try to defend by making a wall of players so that the opposing player that tries to shoot will make errors or an individual player can use their hands and their body to ensure they make an error.
  7. Each team scores by throwing the ball in the opponent’s goalpost, whichever team scores the highest, wins.

Handball rules

Here are some key rules of handball to keep in mind before playing this game.

  • The most important rule is that players can touch the ball with their upper body, but never with any part below the knees. So no kicking the ball at any point!
  • The court is 20 meters by 40 meters large
  • A goal crease is a D-shaped area outside the goal post and players, other than the goalkeeper cannot enter this area. So, a player must attempt to throw the ball outside this crease and get it inside the goalpost, otherwise, the goal is not counted. This crease extends out about 6 meters from the goal post.
  • Each team must have 7 players on the court at all times
  • A defender cannot pull the ball from a player or push another player to get the ball.
  • The game is played in two halves, each half is 30 minutes long. In between these two halves, there is a ten-minute break.
  • If the game ends in a tie after 60 minutes of playing time then five extra minutes are added to the game.

Do you play handball? Tell us in the comments!

10 Facts about handball 

Now that we’ve read all about handball rules and the history of handball, here’s a look at some cool facts about handball!

1. The ball used in the games varies depending on the person 

The ball used in handball games varies depending on whether it is played by women, men or children.

Women usually play with a size 2 ball which is around 54 to 56 centimeters and the weight is 325 to 375 grams, men play with a size 3 ball which is  58 to 60 centimeters and the weight is 425 to 475 grams and kids’ games use a size 1 ball which is  50 to 52 centimeters and the weight is 290 to 330 grams.

2. Handball is the second fastest game on the planet

Following ice hockey, handball is said to be the second fastest team sport in the world. The average goal scored in a handball game is 20-30 making it a high-scoring sport and extremely fast-paced.

3. Handball is a combination of 3 different games

Handball is basically a combination of football, basketball, and netball.

The way you pass the ball with your hands originates from basketball, the goalpost and goalkeeper originate from football and the number of players on each team originates from netball.

4. Handball made its debut in India in 1982

Although it is more popular in Europe, the Asian Games held in Delhi was the first time handball made its debut in India, in 1982. These games also included equestrian, rowing, and golf for the first time!

5. Ancient Romans played handball

There is quite a bit of evidence that women in ancient Rome played a version of handball called expulsim ludere, similar games were played in medieval France as well.

6. Handball has a federation that moderates the sport internationally

The International Handball Federation was set up by  Denmark, Finland, France, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland in 1946. They are responsible for organizing major international handball tournaments like the  World Men’s Handball Championship.

7. Millions of people play handball

Handball is played around the world and, according to the International Handball Federation (IHF), some 30 million people play the sport worldwide, being part of about 130,000 teams!

8. France is the best at handball

France is considered to be the best country at the sport as their men’s team have been champions since January 2017.

They have won 6 world titles and 11 medals at the World Men’s Handball Championships.

9.  There are different versions of handball, like Chinese and American 

Indoor handball is just one version of handball, this can be played between just two or four players as well. This game is played by hitting the wall with the ball and players alternate and serve. One version is called Chinese handball in which the player who serves has to bounce the ball once before it hits the wall whereas in American handball there is no bounce. 

10. Handball made its debut in the 1972 Olympics

Indoor handball was first introduced to the Olympic games in 1972 at the Summer Olympics in Munich. The gold was taken by Yugoslavia at these games

How was that for some fun facts about handball?

The next time you and your friends are thinking of how to spend your time, maybe try handball?

General knowledge for kids and teens

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