Only with the hands

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2008, 12:00am

Handball is a game that is exactly what it says on the tin. If, as we all know, football is a game played with a ball and the feet, guess what handball is.

Handball is a fast-moving indoor sport that involves two teams of seven players who catch, throw and dribble a ball with their hands as they try to score goals at either end of the pitch. Got the picture?

And of course, as in football, the team that scores the most goals wins the match. A handball match is shorter than a football match - it consists of two 30-minute halves with a 10-minute break in the middle.

Handball is a sport that developed in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. A sports teacher in Berlin devised the game's rules in 1919. The International Amateur Handball Federation was set up by handball enthusiasts in 1928 and the first world championships were held in Germany 10 years later.

Handball was accepted as an Olympic sport for the first time at the Munich Games in 1972 when Yugoslavia won the first gold medal.

At the Beijing Olympics, there will be handball matches for both male and female teams.


1 Choose the two meanings of the verb 'to dribble'.

a) to eat your food very quickly

b) to kick a ball to the other end of the court

c) to move a ball along the ground with repeated small kicks or hits

d) to have liquid slowly come out of your mouth

Know your handball terms

What do these handball terms mean?

1 a jump shot

a) a shot that misses the goal

b) a shot made while the player is leaping into the air

2 a red card

a) a card shown by the referee to send a player out of the match

b) a card shown by the referee to allow a goal

3 a throw-in

a) a throw from the side of the court to restart play

b) a goal throw from the middle of the court

4 a wing

a) a player who usually plays at the edge of the court

b) a team's best goal-scorer

5 a field player

a) a player who only plays in the second half of a match

b) any player on the court apart from the goalkeeper

6 a yellow card

a) a card used by the referee to disallow a goal

b) a card used by the referee to warn a player he has broken a rule

Can you catch 'The Hose'?

A hose-pipe full of water is very difficult to control. It can fly all over the place.

Magnus Wislander, voted the World Handball Player of the Century in 1999, was nick-named 'The Hose' because on the handball court he behaved just like a hose-pipe full of water.

He slithered all over the place, and the other players had no idea where he was going to go next as he dribbled the ball through the opposing team towards goal. Wislander represented Sweden at four Olympic Games. In Seoul in 1988, Wislander's slippery dribbling did little to help his national team, and Sweden only achieved fifth place. At the 1992 Barcelona Games, the Swedish handball team got into the finals, winning silver.

Four years later, Sweden again came second in the finals. At the Sydney 2000 Games, Wislander and his team won all their preliminary matches and hopes were high for a gold medal. But once more, Sweden finished second against Russia who won the final 28-26.

'The Hose' made four spectacular appearances at the Olympic Games, but his dribbling skills were never enough to lead his country to that elusive gold medal.


2 What does the verb 'to slither' mean?

a) to move slowly, stopping often

b) to move quickly across a surface while twisting

Olympic Fact File

Choose the correct word to complete these statements and then copy them into your Olympic Fact File.

1) There are (11/seven) players in a handball team.

2) Handball is played on a (field/court).

3) Each half of a handball match lasts (45/30 minutes).

4) Handball rules were devised by a (German/French) teacher in 1919.

5) The great Swedish handball player Magnus Wislander was nick-named ('The Pipe'/'The Hose').

6) Handball made its first Olympic appearance at the (Barcelona/Munich) Games.


1. c/ d, 2. b

Handball terms: 1. b, 2. a, 3. a, 4. a, 5. b, 6. b

Olympic Fact File: 1. Seven, 2. court, 3. 30, 4. German, 5. 'The Hose', 6. Munich