Olympics 2012: Handball

For someone born with absolutely no hand-eye coordination I have made it a goal in life to avoid all sports requiring said skill.  As a result I am clueless when it comes to baseball and basketball, let alone this hitherto unknown sport, ‘team handball’.  When someone mentions “handball”, I associate it with all physical activities involving your hands, and a ball.  If only life were so simple.  And yet, researching this new scrap of data in my life, I have found the most fascinating (and entertaining) photos which have intrigued me enough to put aside my aversion and to stick a toe into this sport.

First things first: team handball (“Real fans don’t say “team”, according to handball fanatic, Stefan Fatsis), what is it? As much as I’ve grasped of the game, it seems to be a sport similar to that of soccer, but with your hands. A team can have up to twelve players but only seven on the court at once. Like any game there are all sorts of rules regarding fouls, penalties, boundary lines and goals, but what it comes down to is being fast, flexible and strong enough to beat the other team by scoring more goals within the allotted time.  

This game shares dribbling with basketball but that’s about all they share. In basketball you have to be tall, fast and able to jump high. In team handball, not only do you have to be fleet, you have to be strong, dexterous and a quick-thinker. A game is typically an hour-long, consisting of two thirty-minute periods with a ten-minute break in between; that hour speeds right on by with the ball and players.  As one fan puts it, “You blink and you’ve missed three things that just happened”.

Team handball seems to be a rather brutal game, one of those games the Roman’s would’ve enjoyed along with their gladiators and popcorn. It’s a fast-paced sport with a team consisting of six field-players and one goalie. The fielders include two backcourt players (a left and a right); a center, who directs the offense or defense strategy, depending which they’re playing; a circle runner, their main job is to score goals or create scoring-opportunities for their team by requiring the other team’s defenders to guard them; and the remaining two players scurry around on the court, filling in where needed.

The most terrifying job seems to be the goalkeeper.  There is a 6m line  in front of the goalposts that only the keeper can inhabit; however, if a player chooses to (and is able to) they can jump and throw the ball into the net to increase their chance of a score as long as they shoot before their feet touch the ground again.  I’m sure when you see the opponent’s whites coming closer to your face self-preservation instincts might kick in and you could get pretty distracted from what’s happening with the ball.

Team Handball goes pretty far back.  In the 1936 Summer Olympics held in Berlin, Germany, it was first introduced into the men’s division; thereafter it was dropped until 1972 in Munich, Germany.  Four years later there was a women’s division added to the games.

For the 2012 Summer Olympics the Team Handball tournaments are scheduled for the 28th of July to the 12th of August .  If you’ve never watched a game before, this summer might be a good time to get a peek of the epic game of Team Handball and see how much you’ve been missing out on.

To see more incredible pictures of Team Handball follow us back to Newscom here.

Thierry Omeyer at Handball Champion's League 2012.

Thierry Omeyer at Handball Champion’s League 2012. imago sportfotodienst/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: imagosports604933

Clara Woltering in the 2009 Women Handball World Cup

Clara Woltering in the 2009 Women Handball World Cup, Germany vs Sweden. imago sportfotodienst/Newscom. Find it at Newscom.com: imagosports070450

Filip Jicha and Jose Rodriguez at the Champions League

Filip Jicha and Jose Rodriguez at the Champions League. imago sportfotodienst/Newscom. Find it at Newscom.com: imagosports604944

Luc Abalo Mad and Dominic Small at the Handball Champions League 2011/12

Luc Abalo Mad and Dominic Small at the Handball Champions League 2011/12. imago sportfotodienst/Newscom. Find it at Newscom.com: imagosports604934

You may be interested in some of these other posts from FocalPoint:

Pictures of the Week: Olympics Opening Ceremonies

Athlete in Focus: Oscar Pistorius

Olympics 2012: Archery

Athlete in Focus: Usain Bolt

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