History Of Handball

Handball History

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

Handball History

Games like handball have been around since ancient Egypt and Rome, and handball has been an Olympic sport since 1936. Modern indoor handball was developed and gained popularity during the second half of the 20th century. Find a complete history of handball below.

Who Invented Handball?

No one person invented handball or made it an official sport. However, three men are credited with writing the rules of handball that are still officially used today: 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 is 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 Invented?

There are a few dates worth mentioning when discussing how handball was invented. 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.

Which Country Started Handball?

Handball has origins in many different countries, and the first evidence of handball goes back to ancient times. Handball-like sports were played in Ancient Egypt, for example, and 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 and Scotland, including by monarchs such as King James I, who was a devoted fan of the game.

By the late 19th century, handball was being played in European and Scandinavian countries such as Germany, Scandinavia, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine. 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 in Denmark.

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 popular in Eastern Europe.

The IHF also organizes Junior Championships, which help younger players get involved. This was important for growing the sport across all audiences. As of 2022, the IHF is affiliated with 209 federations, which consist of approximately 28,000 clubs, 128,000 teams, and as many as 30 million players.

Handball Olympics History

Handball first appeared as “field handball” during the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, with the gold medal won by Germany on their home turf. Field handball and indoor handball were both popular forms of the sport in the mid-20th century. Separate world championships were held for each version every year, but the indoor version emerged as the more popular of the two by 1966.

Indoor handball was played as an unofficial sport in the Olympics prior to its official introduction in 1972. This would be field handball’s only appearance as an official Olympic sport. Field handball was later played as a demonstration sport in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, but it never returned as an official event.

As indoor handball continued to rise in popularity, it was finally officially played by male athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. This first competition was won by Yugoslavia. A women’s indoor handball competition was added at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, where the Soviet Union captured gold in both men’s and women’s handball. Both men’s and women’s indoor handball are still Olympic sports today.

Handball History Key Facts and Timeline

  • Ancient Rome and Egypt: Handball-like games are first played.
  • Middle Ages: Handball-like games are popular in Medieval France and Scotland.
  • Late 1800s: Handball is first developed as a modern sport.
  • October 1917: The modern rules of handball are created.
  • 1919: Handball’s rules are formally updated and changed.
  • September 13, 1925: The first recognized international handball game is played between Germany and Austria.
  • August 4, 1928: The International Amateur Handball Federation is created.
  • 1936: Field handball is first played at the Summer Olympics in Berlin.
  • 1946: The International Handball Federation is formed.
  • 1957: The first-ever Women’s Handball World Championship is held.
  • 1972: Indoor Handball is added to the Olympics.
  • 1976: Women’s Handball is added to the Olympics.


When was handball invented?

The first time handball-like games were played was during ancient times, such as in Ancient Egypt and Rome. 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. This coincides with the founding of the International Amateur Handball Federation and the International Handball Federation, which were founded in Denmark in 1946. 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 invented in Germany, so playing a close neighbor made sense. While modern rules were invented in 1917, the first game between the 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.