History Of Handball

Handball History

Handball is a popular team sport featured in the Summer Olympics. However, it hasn’t always been so prominent and internationally recognizable. Read on to learn about the history of handball, and how it went from a new sport to a highlight of the Olympics.

What are the basic rules of Handball?

Handball is a sport played between two teams, where the objective is to score more goals than the opposing team. Matches are typically composed of two 30-minute halves. Each team has seven players, one of which is the goalie. A goal is scored when a team throws the ball into the opposing team’s net.

There are many rules about what a player can and can not do. For example, players may not touch the ball with their knees, legs, or feet. There is also a designated area surrounding the goal, which only the goalkeeper may stand in. A player who has possession of the ball must either dribble the ball, or possess it for less than three seconds. If a player holds onto the ball for longer than three seconds without passing, shooting, dribbling, a traveling foul will occur. As a result, the other team gets possession.

Which Country Started Handball?

Handball has origins from many different countries. By the late 19th century, handball was being played in Germany, Scandinavia, Czech Republic, and Ukraine. The first evidence of handball goes back to long before, however. The women of the Roman Empire played a game similar to handball, which they called expulsim ludere. There were other handball-like games played in Medieval France. 

The first games of Olympic handball were played in 1936 in Berlin. This was just eight years after the International Amateur Handball Federation was formed. In 1946, the International Handball Federation was formed.

Who Invented Handball?

No one man or woman invented handball or made it an official sport. However, a few people are credited with writing the rules of handball that are still officially used today. These three people are Max Heiser, Karl Schelenz, and Erich Konigh. While the rules have been tweaked over the years, the set of rules created by these three men in 1917 are considered to be the birth of handball. This was also the year that the first official handball game was played, making these three the most likely inventors of modern handball.

When was Handball Established?

There are a few dates worth mentioning when discussing how exactly handball was established. In 1928, handball was established as a sport by the International Amateur Handball Federation. In 1936, men’s field handball was added to the Olympics. During the following decades, handball was played in Scandinavian countries. In 1972, indoor handball was first played at the Olympics. The first instance of women’s Olympic handball was in 1976, in Montreal, however, the IHF Women’s Handball Championship began in 1957.  

Adding handball to the Olympics helped promote the sport and make it much more popular. In 1972, when indoor handball became a part of the Summer Olympics, handball became quite popular in Eastern Europe.

The IHF also organizes junior championships, which helps younger players get involved. This was important for growing the sport across all audiences. By 2009, there were 795,000 teams across the globe, and more than 19 million players.

  • Germany
  • France
  • Spain
  • Romania
  • Croatia
  • Poland
  • Macedonia
  • Norway
  • France
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • Serbia
  • Netherlands
  • United States
  • Portugal
  • Brazil
  • United Kingdom
  • Slovakia
  • Czech Republic

Handball History Key Facts and Timeline

  • Medieval ages - Handball-like games are first played
  • Late 19th century - creation of handball as a modern sport
  • October 1917 - Modern Rules created
  • 1919 - Rules updated and changed
  • 1925 - First recognized international handball game
  • 1926 - Committee of Amateur Handball created
  • 1936 - Field handball played at Summer Olympics
  • 1946 - Creation of International Handball Federation
  • 1957 - First ever Women’s World Championship
  • 1972 - Indoor Handball added to Olympics
  • 1976 - Women’s Handball added to Olympics


When was handball invented?

The first time handball-like games were played was during the medieval ages in France, however the sport Olympic viewers know today came to be during the late 19th century. The development of modern handball took place over the course of many years, with the modern rules seen on TV largely invented in 1917. 

Where did team handball originate?

The earliest modern handball games were most commonly played in Germany and Scandinavia. However, other countries like Austria and Sweden also played a major role in the origination of modern handball. 

What were the first two countries to play a modern handball game?

The two countries to play the first modern international handball game were Germany and Austria. The modern rules of handball were actually invented in Germany, so playing a close neighbor makes sense. While the modern rules were invented in 1917, the first game between two countries was not played until 1925. Germany and Austria were also the first two countries to play an international women’s match, taking place in 1930.