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Handball (also known as team handball, field handball or Olympic handball) is a team sport where two teams of seven players each (six players and a goalkeeper) pass and bounce a ball trying to throw it in the goal of the opposing team.
The game is similar to football (soccer), regardless of the basic method of handling the ball which is inverse from football. It has been played internationally since the first half of the 20th century.
Handball 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 near-semicircular line that is generally six meters away from the goal. There is also a dashed near-semicircular line that is nine meters away from the goal.
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 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. A player may only hold the ball for three seconds and may only take three steps with the ball in hand.
A standard match duration consists of two periods of 30 minutes each, during which each team may call one time-out. Normal league games are usually allowed to end in a draw, but in knockout tournaments, such as the final stages of the Olympics etc, if a game ends in a tie, two extension periods of 10 minutes are played, and if each of them ends in a tie as well, the tie-break is an individual shootout from the 7-meter line.
The game is quite fast and includes much contact as the defenders try 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. In more extreme cases, they give the defender a yellow (warning) or a red card (permanent expulsion). For rough fouls they can also order two-minute expulsions, and the third two-minute punishment for the same player automatically leads to 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 hole set (anchor) in water polo), disrupting the defense formation, and the other being the playmaker (similar to basketball).
Variation: The way I've always is to not bounce, but limit steps. Best if 5.
Flags: Very Short (0-60 mins), Short (1-3 hours), Medium (3-6 hours), With a Group, Children, Teens, Adults, Outdoors, Day, Sunny