As we race past yet another landmark in the countdown to London 2012 (this time the 30 days to go point) we thought we’d start to look at some of the slightly alternative Olympic sports. First up…handball. We hope that once you’ve finished reading you will be able to count yourself as an expert in this great team sport (it should also come in handy for all that Olympic small talk!).
Although relatively new to these shores, handball can trace its ancestry back as far as medieval France, as well as being popular among the early Inuits in Greenland. The sport started to grow into a fully-fledged, codified sport in Scandanavia and Eastern Europe during the 19th century, with the first official rules being written down by a Danish school teacher in 1906.
Playing on a pitch similar to that of an indoor football pitch, the rules are quite easy to grasp; the aim of the game is to throw the ball (around two thirds the size of a football) into the opponent’s net without standing in their ‘D’. Each team contains 6 outfield players and a goalkeeper, with players able to carry the ball for 3 steps, and then allowed a further 3 steps when they dribble the ball (a lá the basketball dribble). Players can pass to each other, and contact is allowed during a tackle, as long as it’s a front-on hit. For a quick taster of what to expect in London, here’s some of the great goals from 2012 so far:
The game is incredibly fast paced and has become noticeably faster in recent years with the quick counter-attack becoming more prevalent. The pace is particularly fast and furious during the transition from defense to attack and feels more like a basketball match than the combination of football and rugby that you might expect. Each team has up to 7 substitutes for 2 halves of 30 minutes, which gives some indication about just how tiring it can be (and how good the sport is for keeping in shape).
The other great thing about handball is the simplicity of equipment required; all that is needed to start a game is 2 goals, a ‘D’ and a ball. Although the sport is still in its infancy in the UK, there are a number of teams that you can join. For more info head to England Handball’s website. The GB Handball Association is hoping to see a significant legacy affect, so if you like what you see make sure you go and try it out!
The two GB teams will go into the Olympic tournament as underdogs after a slightly disappointing run of form leading into the Games. The women’s team, whose squad was announced last week, have shown plenty promise with a win against the African champions, Angola, in April. However, the men’s team face an uphill task as they come up against a number of countries where they have professional associations, but home support and their incredible dedication is likely to see them to do better than expected.
Many of the men’s and women’s squads have made huge sacrifices just to be in with a chance of competing at the Games. Louise Jukes story of selling her house and giving up her job 5 years ago to fulfil her dream of Olympic participation is one of many that stands out. The first Handball games start on the 28th July and go right through to the penultimate day of the games. Hopefully this has whet your appetite for Handball at the Olympics…stay tuned for the next Olympic sport profile coming soon!