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Team handball
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Team handball

European Team (or Field) handball is a team sport where six players in two teams pass and bounce a ball trying to throw it in the goal of the opposing team.

The game is similar to football (soccer) and may have originated in either Germany, or earlier in Greece. It is played on a field forty meters long by twenty meters wide; with a dividing line in the middle and a goal in the center of either end.

The goals are surrounded by a close to semicircular line that is generally six meters away from the goal. There is also another semicircular line that is nine meters away from the goal but that one is dashed.

Only the defending goalkeeper is allowed to step inside the six meter perimeter, though any player may attempt to catch and touch the ball in the air within it. If a player should find himself in contact inside the goal perimeter he must immediately take the most direct path out of it. Should a defender make contact with an attacker while in the goal perimeter, their team is penalized with a direct attempt at the goal, with only one attacker on the seven-meter line and the defending goalkeeper involved.

The ball is smaller than a (soccer) football in order for the players to be able to hold and handle it with a single hand (though contact with both hands is perfectly allowed). It is transported by bouncing it between hands and floor -- much as in basketball, except that a handball player may raise their hand above shoulder level while bouncing.

The game is quite fast and includes much contact as the defenders tries to bodily stop the attackers from approaching the goal. Only frontal contact by the defenders is allowed; when a defender stops an attacker with their arms on the side, the play is stopped and restarted from the nine meter line, with the attacking team in possession. If the contact between the players is particularly rough (even if it is indeed frontal), the referees may award a nine-meter penalty to the attacking team, or a seven-meter penalty and sometimes even give the defender a yellow (warning) or a red card (expulsion).

Conversely, if the attacker is at fault the possession of the ball can be awarded to the defending team. Players may also cause the possession to be lost if they make more than three steps per one bounce of the ball off the floor.

The usual formations of the defense are the so-called 6-0, when all the defense players are within the 6 meter and 9 meter lines; the 5-1, when one of the players cruises outside the 9 meter perimeter, usually targeting the center forwards; and the least common 4-2 when there are two such defenders. The usual attacking formation includes two wingmen, a center-left and a center-right which usually excel at high jumps and shooting over the defenders, and two centers, one of which tends to intermingle with the defense (somewhat similar to the anchor in water polo), disrupting the defense formation, and the other being the playmaker (similar to basketball).

Men's field handball was played at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin at the special request of Adolf Hitler. It was removed from the list of sports, to return as team handball in 1972 for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Women's team handball was added as an Olympic discipline in 1976, at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

International tournaments


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