The normally becalmed world of handball erupted at the beginning of the year when news came through that the Handball Arena, one of the Olympic Park’s five permanent venues, had been renamed ‘Copper Box’. The change was done mainly to reflect the non-specific nature of the venue (it will also host the fencing elements of the modern pentathlon, and the Paralympic sport goalball) but amongst Britain’s slow but growing community of handballers, the decision suggested a lack of respect toward their discipline, and a lost opportunity to capitalise on a sport that could surprise the uninitiated this summer.
Handball consists of two teams of seven players trying to force a small ball into their opponents’ goal. The players dribble the ball around by bouncing it like in basketball, and like its loftier cousin, handball is a high-scoring sport, with plenty of goals over the typical 60 minute game. But while basketball often adopts a languid pace interspersed with moments of athletic brilliance, handball is a sport of relentless speed and energy. A three-second limit on standing motionless with the ball means it gets moved around a lot, contributing to the high-octane feel.
Confused? We can’t recommend highly enough this excellent visual guide by the Guardian.
As for Team GB’s chances? Well, during the Handball test event last November, the ladies team won their first match against African champions Angola but struggled thereafter, finishing last out of the six teams. The men’s team is less developed, and have only two victories under their belt thus far; they were beaten three times during the London Handball Cup in April. Still, both teams are set to make history regardless — having qualified as the host nation, it will be the first time Britain has ever fielded a handball team at the Olympics (the UK national programme was only formed in 2006. The target is to qualify for the knockout stages; a tall order for such a nascent squad, perhaps, but one that, should they make it, would be immeasurable in broadening the sport’s popularity.
Want to try it for yourself? England Handball has all the information you need.
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