...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Back in gradeschool, we usually played three kinds of "-ball" sports: basketball, volleyball and "touching-ball" — the latter being a dodge ball variation where we used an oversized hankerchief tightly knotted into a ball. In highschool, the ball sports narrowed down into basket and volley. Otherwise, we spent P.E. class learning Asian dance (I'm ashamed to say) and native games such as relay racing on stilts (in which my section, represented by yours truly and two others, won the inter-year competitions!).

In college, the ball games narrow down even more and "ball game" becomes more or less equivalent to "basketball", as it is in the rest of the Philippines. Basket is the non-official national sport, overshadowing the real national sport sepak takraw (kick volleyball), much so that the latter is rarely even heard of.

One tends to think that his or her country is the most "normal" in all the world — a feeling that is probably even stronger in island nations. So when I first heard about previously un-heard of sports such as floorball and handball here, my first impressions were that these were strange versions of (both North American-originating) hockey and basket. We know too little of European / other sports, with the exception of soccer, which is known, but not often played, in the Philippines. In fact, floorball and handball are both established world sports. The Men's World Handball Championships is ongoing in Sweden as I write, and though the fact stands that many of the teams are European, up there on the top qualifiers are Argentina and South Korea. Even the Philippines apparently has a local handball federation, but as I said, this is likely not in the list ball sports that most people know about. It's a shame, because otherwise, we would have probably have had this exciting sport for P.E. instead of Asian dance.

Since most of my readers will know the rules of basketball, I'm naming this section: The Differences between basket and handball (with pictures taken from the internet) to explain handball rules in a nutshell:

1. In handball, there is goalkeeper and the goal is reminiscent of a small football goal rather than a basket. (In our P.E. lessons, they were particular to point out that it Dr. James T. Naismith used peach baskets when he invented basketball. Why this would be important is beyond me.)

2. Like basketball, the aim is to put as many balls into the opponents' goal. The handball ball fits an open hand, so it is much smaller than a basketball and can be passed and recieved easily in the air using one hand.

3. One goal equals one point (no three-pointers!)

4. Instead of the "starting five", handball teams have six starting players in the field with the exception of the goalkeeper.

5. These other players are not allowed inside the goal perimeter, so to get a shot, the players have to fight their way through opposing team members, who in their turn try to create a defensive formation around the goal perimeter, like a wall.

6. The defensive team tries everything, short of illegal moves like shirt-pulling and injurous moves such as pulling on the thrower's arm, to stop the offensive team from creating goal chances. This is one major difference from the rules of basketball, where it is absolutely not allowed to have body contact with the opponents. When the offensive player with the ball gets "trapped" by the defense, the referee stops the game and the offensive team gets another try at a new strategy.

7. The offensive team tries to create a game play to get around the wall of defense. They can feign and pass the ball to free players (just as in basket), until they have a good goal chance or until their time is up and the ball goes to the other team. If they commit an offensive foul, the game play stops and the ball goes to the other team.

8. One of the more graceful moves in handball is when a player with a clear shot jumps and suspends in the air to throw the ball in the goal. There's a lot of explosivity and coordination in there. Once they find a gap in the wall, jumping gives them more time to aim and gives them a chance at fooling the goalkeeper, who has been actively blocking the goal from unexpected shots throughout the gameplay. They also have to make the shot without stepping into the goalkeeper's area, but by leaping, they can close the distance and try for a goal as long as their feet haven't landed yet. It is illegal to block a player with a clear goal chance.

9. All in all, it seems like a more challenging, explosive, physical game than basketball, and that's what makes it so exciting. Because of the physical nature of the game, players also change more often in order to last the two 30-minute sets (basketball has 4 quarters of 12 minutes).

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a handball match on TV at 8:00 (Sweden vs. Poland) so I have to publish this post and eat dinner so I can watch it. Maybe you can even catch some handball games where you live, through cable TV?


Anonymous Chrissy said...

I'm clueless about handball and do not get it's appeal. But the finals last night between France and Denmark was a bit exciting thanks to the announcers hehe.

Thanks to your post about rules, I'm able to understand it more. :)

11:37 AM

Blogger Ahoy! said...

Yeah I was clueless too, but the more you watch, the more you understand - like in most sports :-)

I added some sentences to the rules to clarify some of them better, but of course this blog entry is by no means comprehensive!

There are also other rules I know about (at least have some understading about), but I didn't include here because it would have been too wordy. Apparently, for instance, the ball can't touch player's feet or the ball goes to the other team. Likewise, when a goalkeeper saves the ball, there are also rules that determine which team the ball will go to (depending on where the ball goes in the field).

11:32 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home

<<< Browse older posts (via sidebar list)