What is Handball?

What is the aim of the game?

Seven players on each team compete by passing a ball using their hands, with the aim of throwing the ball into the other team's goal. Whoever scores more goals wins. Handball is a high action game: a standard match lasts just 60 minutes, and games regularly finish with teams having scored over 20 goals!

Watch highlights of the 2016 match between Team GB and Ireland men's handball.

What are the positions in handball?

A seven player team is split into various positions, and every person has an important role to play. 

Goalkeeper: Only goalkeepers are allowed to move freely within the 6m 'D-Zone' goal area. Goalkeepers are the only players allowed to kick the ball, and unlike other sports goalkeepers don't play with gloves or head protection.

Wingers: These are typically fast movers who excel at ball control and wide jumps enabling them to get into the best positions to score.

Backs: These players tend to be taller, with a powerful shot that helps them to jump high and shoot over the defenders.

Centre/Playmaker: A bit like a Point Guard in basketball, this player is great at passing and handling the ball. They are usually the most experienced on the team.

Pivot/Line Player: This player gets in the way of the other team’s defenders, hoping to mix up their formation so the other players can score. These players are often quite strong and are really good at handling the ball.

Check out this amazing goal from the Rio Olympics.

Ten rules you should know

  1. Players (apart from goalkeepers) are only allowed to touch the ball above the knee.
  2. After they get the ball a player can pass, keep possession, or shoot.
  3. When they have the ball, players must dribble (just like basketball), or they can take up to three steps for up to three seconds at a time without dribbling.
  4. If a player takes more than three steps without dribbling, it counts as travelling, and they have to give the ball to the other team.
  5. A player can dribble for as long as they want, so long as they only touch the top of the ball when doing so.
  6. After the dribble is picked up the ball must then be passed or shot. Any more dribbling would be considered a 'double dribble' and result in a free throw for the other team.
  7. Outfield players can only enter the 6m D-zone area in order to pass or shoot the ball whilst they're in mid-air. They must jump from outside the zone and release the ball before they land in the area.
  8. Goalkeepers are allowed outside the goal area, but are not allowed to cross the goal zone line with the ball in their hands.
  9. The ball can't be passed back to the goalkeeper when they are in the goal area.
  10. Each team can have seven substitute players on the bench. Substitutes can be made any number of times during a game without having to inform the referee.

Where is handball popular?

Mikkel Hansen and Viran Morros de Argila battle during the EHF Mens Champions League match between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Barcelona in 2016.

Handball is very popular in Europe with professional leagues, in several countries including France, Germany, Spain and Hungary. There's also the EHF Champions League in which the best club teams across the continent compete. Some well known football clubs also have handball teams including Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.

Who is the best player in the world?

 Nikola Karabatic

France's Nikola Karabatic jumps to shoot on goal during the Men's 2018 EHF European Handball Championship.

Nikola is a centre back who plays for Paris Saint-Germain and the French national team.

He has won two Olympic gold medals, four World Championship gold medals and three gold medals in the European Championships. He is regarded as one of the greatest players in handball history and has been IHF World Player of the Year for a record three times, in 2007, 2014, and 2016.

He also speaks six languages, French, English, German, Spanish, Croatian and Serbian!

Where can I play handball?

Check out the Get Inspired handball guide for more information of how to get into handball and use their activity finder to see where handball is played near you.

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