Updated: Monday, 19 March 2012 16:43 | By pa.press.net


The basic aim of handball is very similar to football, with one obvious difference.

A handball player prepares to throw the ball. (© Press Association)

A handball player prepares to throw the ball.


The basic aim of handball is very similar to football, with one obvious difference.

Players use their hands instead of their feet to propel the ball and beat the opposition goalkeeper, with the fast-paced format meaning that you can expect to see plenty of goals scored during an average game.

Handball is actually a much older sport than football and dates back to the ancient Greeks. Homer's Odyssey makes reference to a sport similar to handball being played on the island of the Faiakes (Corfu), while a primitive form of the game is depicted on a marble plaque at the Athens Acropolis that dates back to 600 BC.

The roots of the sport we know today stem from an outdoor version of handball that was first played in Scandinavia and Germany at the end of the 19th century, with an 11-a-side version of the game being staged as a demonstration event at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

The indoor seven-a-side version of handball was developed in Scandinavia and the sport quickly grew in popularity across Europe, eventually gaining its full Olympic debut at Munich 1972 for men and Montreal 1976 for women.

Handball is a fast-paced and physical team game that involves the two teams of seven players passing, throwing, catching and dribbling a small ball made of leather as they aim to score a goal.

The sport is high scoring, with as many as 50 goals often being netted in a single match. Each game consists of two 30-minute halves with a 10-minute break between them.

The frenetic end-to-end nature of the sport, along with the agility, stamina and strength shown by the world's top players, makes handball one of the most thrilling spectacles on the Olympic schedule.

Both the men's and women's competitions start with a round-robin format with two six-team groups, before the top four from each progress to the knockout stages where the medals are decided.

European nations have traditionally dominated the sport, with France the men's champions from Beijing 2008.