Learn An Olympic Sport: Handball

France's Luc Abalou.


Aug 6-21

Handball is a mix between indoor soccer, dodgeball, lacrosse, and basketball and it’s fantastic. If you enjoy watching Syracuse basketball’s zone defense during the NCAA tournament, you’ll love handball.

Pretty cool, right?  

Sure. The sport is a hybrid, as aforementioned. There are two goals (2×3 meters) and seven players a team (one goalie) with seven subs that can come in at anytime. The goal is to throw in as many goals as possible. The court is roughly the size of a basketball court with a restricted area and a "free-throw"line (which is like the lane in basketball). Teams play two 30-minute periods. Players cannot hold onto the ball for more than 3 seconds or take more than 3 steps. Players can dribble the handball —€” which is roughly half the size of a basketball —€” but double-dribbles are enforced. Defenders cannot steal the ball or foul the shooter, lest they allow a free-throw. Serious fouls (think yellow cards) get 20 minute power plays a la hockey. Four fouls and you are ejected with a red card.

The sport that’s dominated by European teams, mainly from the eastern region of the continent. Watching handball, it’s impossible to think that we shouldn’t funnel some some NCAA basketball players to the sport to become a world power.

The Germans enter the contest as the top-ranked team in the world, but France is excellent and the defending back-to-back Olympic champions. Denmark, Slovakia, and Russia (if they are allowed to play) are strong as well. Brazil is the 2013 World Champion and the home-court advantage could play a huge factor. The Qatar team is built with well-paid mercenaries from around the world of handball —€” don’t underestimate them.