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Handball: The Coolest Sport You Never Heard Of

Listed under in Berlin, Germany.

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Handball just might be the coolest sport you’ve never heard of.

I’m not talking about the handball I use to dominate on elementary school playgrounds with my incendiary slicies.

I’m not talking about the handball that old men with arthritis play at the gym because they can’t grip a racket anymore.

I’m talking about team handball, an action-packed, high-scoring sport that’s like a fusion of soccer and basketball. Just think of it as soccer for the hands.

It’s a sport so popular in Europe that there are professional leagues for both men and women. If you don’t have a subscription to Obscure Sports Quarterly, the only way to discover handball in America was by watching late-night Summer Olympics broadcasts.

Handball isn’t esoteric and bewildering like cricket; it’s a relatively simple game where two teams of 7 players score goals by throwing a ball into a net guarded by a goalie. The team that scores the most goals in 60 minutes wins.

The catch is: there’s a 20-foot crease around the goal that players can’t enter. Offensive wizards circumvent this obstacle by darting through defenders, leaping into the air like a frog and firing a shot before his feet touch the ground.

It makes for some pretty acrobatic — and rough — entertainment. Fouls are unlimited in handball, and often times a defender will slam a player to the ground before he ever gets a shot off.

When we visited Berlin, we were finally able to see a professional handball match live.

There weren’t many seats left for the Berlin Foxes game by the time we arrived at Max Schmeling Hall, so we were relegated to the top of the corner.

The game was fast and furious. Drummers set the rhythm of the game with their hypnotic high tempo cadence. The crowd erupted and chanted every time a player from the home team whipped a ball into the net. And fans smacked noisemakers against the railings to the beat of a popular German song called “Das Geht Ab” — a song that was played no less than 30 times throughout the game.

When the final buzzer echoed through the packed arena, the Berlin Foxes had defeated VfL Gummersbach 30-24.

Where?

Max-Schmeling-HalleFalkplatz 110437 Berlin

When?

34-week season runs from September through may May.

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Written by  TheJetpacker.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

There are handball clubs in the US in almost every major city. Check out www.usateamhandball.org to find a club near you!

The only difference between professional handball and amateur handball is that the professionals get paid to play! The rules are the same whether it's high school handball or pro league handball.

Handball is played all over the world, but it's most popular in Europe where there are professional leagues in almost every country. Germany and Spain have the largest handball leagues while France has been the most dominant force internationally. They are the reigning champion of the World Men's Handball Championship AND gold medal winners at the '08 Summer Games.

We've never played handball because we don't know where to find it where we live! But we'd love to give it a shot.

Played this in high school many, many years ago. First reference to it I've seen since. Very cool.

1 Reply

Too right, I played it too - but what's the difference when it's played professionally? Where else do they play? Do you play or just watch? Thanks!

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