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Handball - rules



Two teams of seven players (six field players plus one goalkeeper) take the field and attempt to score points by putting the game ball into the opposing team's goal. In handling the ball, players are subject to the following restrictions:


 -  After receiving the ball, players can pass, keep possession, or shoot the ball.If possessing the ball, players must dribble (similar to a basketball dribble), or can take up to three steps for up to three seconds at a time without dribbling.Men's Handball - a jump shot (Kiril Lazarov, world record-holder for the number of goals scored in one World Championship)

-  No attacking or defending players other than the defending goalkeeper are allowed to touch the floor of the goal area (within 6 metres of the goal). A shot or pass in the goal area is valid if completed before touching the floor. Goalkeepers are allowed outside the goal area, but are not allowed to possess the ball across the goal area boundary.The ball may not be passed back to the goalkeeper when he is positioned in the goal area.

-  Notable scoring opportunities can occur when attacking players jump into the goal area. For example, an attacking player may catch a pass while launching inside the goal area, and then shoot or pass before touching the floor. Doubling occurs when a diving attacking player passes to another diving team-mate.


Playing field

Handball is played on a court 40 by 20 metres (130 ft × 66 ft), with a goal in the centre of each end. The goals are surrounded by a near-semicircular area, called the zone or the crease, defined by a line six metres from the goal. A dashed near-semicircular line nine metres from the goal marks the free-throw line. Each line on the court is part of the area it encompasses. This implies that the middle line belongs to both halves at the same time.



Each goal has a rectangular clearance area of three metres in width and two metres in height. It must be securely bolted either to the floor or the wall behind.



A standard match for all teams of 16 and older has two periods of 30 minutes with a 15-minute half-time. At half-time, teams switch sides of the court as well as benches. For youths the length of the halves is reduced—25 minutes at ages 12 to 16, and 20 minutes at ages 8 to 12; though national federations of some countries may differ in their implementation from the official guidelines.
If a decision must be reached in a particular match (e.g., in a tournament) and it ends in a draw after regular time, there are at maximum two overtimes of 2 × 5 minutes with a 1-minute break each. Should these not decide the game either, the winning team is determined in a penalty shootout (best-of-5 rounds; if still tied, extra rounds afterwards until won by one team).
The referees may call timeout according to their sole discretion; typical reasons are injuries, suspensions, or court cleaning. Penalty throws should trigger a timeout only for lengthy delays, such as a change of the goalkeeper.


Team players, substitutes, and officials

Each team consists of 7 players on court and 7 substitute players on the bench. One player on the court must be the designated goalkeeper, differing in his clothing from the rest of the field players. Substitution of players can be done in any number and at any time during game play. An exchange takes place over the substitution line. A prior notification of the referees is not necessary.
Some national bodies, such as the Deutsche Handball Bund (DHB, "German Handball Federation"), allow substitution in junior teams only when in ball possession or during timeouts. This restriction is intended to prevent early specialisation of players to offence or defence.


Awarded throws

The referees may award a special throw to a team. This usually happens after certain events such as scored goals, off-court balls, turnovers, timeouts, etc. All of these special throws require the thrower to obtain a certain position, and pose restrictions on the positions of all other players. Sometimes the execution must wait for a whistle blow by the referee.



Penalties are given to players, in progressive format, for fouls that require more punishment than just a free-throw. "Actions" directed mainly at the opponent and not the ball (such as reaching around, holding, pushing, hitting, tripping, or jumping into opponent) as well as contact from the side, from behind a player or impeding the opponent's counter attack are all considered illegal and are subject to penalty. Any infraction that prevents a clear scoring opportunity will result in a 7-metre penalty shot.
Typically the referee will give a warning yellow card for an illegal action; but, if the contact was particularly dangerous, like striking the opponent in the head, neck or throat, the referee can forego the warning for an immediate 2-minute suspension. A player can get only one warning before receiving a 2-minute suspension. One player is only permitted two 2-minute suspensions; on the third time, (s)he will be shown the red card.
A red card results in an ejection from the game and a 2-minute penalty for the team. A player may receive a red card directly for particularly rough penalties
After having lost the ball during an attack, the ball has to be laid down quickly or else the player not following this rule will face a 2-minute suspension. Also, gesticulating or verbally questioning the referee's order, as well as arguing with the officials' decisions, will normally result in a 2-minute suspension.


Awarded throws

-  Throw-off - a throw-off takes place from the centre of the court. The thrower must touch the middle line with one foot, and all the other offensive players must stay in their half until the referee restarts the game. The defending players must keep a distance of at least three metres from the thrower. A throw-off occurs at the beginning of each period and after the opposing team scores a goal. It must be cleared by the referees

-  Throw-in - the team which did not touch the ball last is awarded a throw-in when the ball fully crosses the side line or touches the ceiling. If the ball crosses the outer goal line, a throw-in is awarded only if the defending field players touched the ball last. Execution requires the thrower to place one foot on the nearest outer line to the cause. All defending players must keep a distance of three metres. However, they are allowed to stand immediately outside their own goal area even when the distance is less than three metres.

-  Goalkeeper-throw - if the ball crosses the outer goal line without interference from the defending team or when deflected by the defending team's goalkeeper, or when the attacking team violates the D-Zone as described above, a goalkeeper-throw is awarded to the defending team. This is the most common turnover. The goalkeeper resumes the play with a throw from anywhere within his goal area.

-  Free-throw - a free-throw restarts the play after an interruption by the referees. It takes places from the spot where the interruption was caused, as long as this spot is outside of the free-throw line of the opposing team. In the latter case, the throw is deferred to the nearest spot on the free-throw line. Free-throws are the equivalent to free-kicks in association football. The thrower may take a direct attempt for a goal which, however, is not feasible if the defending team has organised a defence.

-  7-metre throw - a 7-metre throw is awarded when a clear chance of scoring is illegally prevented anywhere on the court by an opposing team player, official, or spectator. It is awarded also when the referees have interrupted a legitimate scoring chance for any reason. The thrower steps with one foot behind the 7-metre line with only the defending goalkeeper between him and the goal. The goalkeeper must keep a distance of three metres, which is marked by a short tick on the floor. All other players must remain behind the free-throw line until execution. The thrower must await the whistle blow of the referee. A 7-metre throw is the equivalent to a penalty kick in association football; however, it is far more common and typically occurs several times in a single game.






Left and right wingman. These typically are fast players who excel at ball control and wide jumps from the outside of the goal perimeter in order to get into a better shooting angle at the goal. Teams usually try to occupy the left position with a right-handed player and vice versa.Left and right backcourt. Goal attempts by these players are typically made by jumping high and shooting over the defenders. Thus, it is usually advantageous to have tall players with a powerful shot for these positions.Centre backcourt. A player with experience is preferred on this position who acts as playmaker and the handball equivalent of a basketball point guard.Pivot (left and right, if applicable). This player tends to intermingle with the defence, setting picks and attempting to disrupt the defence's formation. This positions requires the least jumping skills; but ball control and physical strength are an advantage.



Far left and far right. The opponents of the wingmen.Half left and half right. The opponents of the left and right backcourts.Back centre (left and right). Opponent of the pivot.Front centre. Opponent of the centre backcourt, may also be set against another specific backcourt player.


Offensive play

Attacks are played with all field players on the side of the defenders. Depending on the speed of the attack, one distinguishes between three attack waves with a decreasing chance of success:


 - First wave - first wave attacks are characterised by the absence of defending players around their goal perimeter.
-  Second wave - if the first wave is not successful and some defending players have gained their positions around the zone, the second wave comes into play: the remaining players advance with quick passes to locally outnumber the retreating defenders.
-  Third wave - the time during which the second wave may be successful is very short, as then the defenders closed the gaps around the zone. In the third wave, the attackers use standardised attack patterns usually involving crossing and passing between the back court players who either try to pass the ball through a gap to their pivot, take a jumping shot from the backcourt at the goal, or lure the defence away from a wingman.


Defensive play

The usual formations of the defence are 6-0, when all the defence players line up between the 6-metre and 9-metre lines to form a wall; the 5-1, when one of the players cruises outside the 9-metre perimeter, usually targeting the centre forwards while the other 5 line up on the 6-metre line; and the less common 4-2 when there are two such defenders out front. Very fast teams will also try a 3-3 formation which is close to a switching man-to-man style. The formations vary greatly from country to country, and reflect each country's style of play. 6-0 is sometimes known as "flat defence", and all other formations are usually called "offensive defence".



Handball teams are usually organised as clubs. On a national level, the clubs are associated in federations which organise matches in leagues and tournaments.


International bodies

The administrative and controlling body for international Handball is the International Handball Federation (IHF). The federation organises world championships, separate for men and women, held in uneven years. The final round is hosted in one of its member states. The 2011 title holders are France (men) and Norway (women).
The IHF is composed of five continental federations which organise continental championships held every other second year. In addition to these competitions between national teams, the federations arrange international tournaments between club teams.





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