How to play handball

Players bounce and pass a leather ball to each other like basketball players do. To score a goal they have to throw the ball past a goalkeeper and into the other team's goal. The goal has net on three sides.

Sometimes it is played outside, but at other times, including at the Olympic Games, it is played on an indoor court.


There are twelve players in a team but only seven players from each team are on the court at a time. A referee makes sure that all players obey the rules. A referee can send off the court any player who breaks a rule.

Handball is a very fast game. A men's match lasts for two 30 minute halves. Women's teams play two 25 minute halves.

History of handball

The game began in Denmark in about 1890, when it was played indoors by athletes who wanted to stay fit during the winter. The first rules and competitions were organised by Danish teacher, Holger Neilsen, in 1906. When it was first played as an Olympic sport, handball was played outdoors.

The indoor version is now played in more than 80 countries

Indoor handball was an Olympic event for the first time at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Women’s Olympic handball appeared at the games in 1976 in Montreal, Canada. 

Read about Handball at the Olympic Games. There’s a video to watch too!