Iceland Mag

9 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Sports

Handball is a game of fast breaks, furious shots and violence

By Jón Kaldal

  • A typical scene from a handball game. Players rolling on the floor fighting for the ball. Photo/Daníel Rúnarsson

Iceland has many strong football players and the national team is finally starting to blossom. Iceland's other popular ball game is handball and the national handball team has a long history of success.

Football VERSUS Handball

What is it?

Football Or soccer, as it is also known, is played between two teams of eleven players. It’s played on a rectangular field with a playing area of 100-110 by 64-74 meters and a goal in the center of each short end. The object is to score by driving the ball into the opposing goal. The goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their hands or arms. A standard match is two periods of 45 minutes, and the team with the most goals scored wins.

Handball The game is played between two teams of seven players on a rectangular indoor field with a playing area of 40 by 20 meters and a goal in the center of each short end. The object is to score by driving the ball into the opposing goal. The goalkeepers are the only players allowed to touch the ball with their feet and legs. A standard match is two periods of 30 minutes, and the team with the most goals scored wins.

How big is it?

Football  FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) lists 208 member federations. Football is played by over 250 million players worldwide, making it the planet’s most popular sport.

Handball  The International Handball Federation (IHF) lists 166 member federations and 19 million players worldwide. Handball is the second most popular sport in Europe after football.

How has it been described?

Football  “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win,” said Gary Lineker after England lost against Germany. Germans are historically one of the world’s strongest footballing nations.

Handball  Joe Posnanski, former senior writer at Sports Illustrated, coined this description after watching handball at the London Olympics in 2012: “Handball is this awesome game with six on a side (and a goalkeeper), a ball slightly smaller than a volleyball, a net roughly the size of French doors, and all the fast breaks, furious shots and violence you can squeeze into one 60-minute game. Team handball has a little bit of basketball (players dribble the ball), a little bit of soccer (there are nets), a little bit of hockey (power plays), a little bit of dodgeball (you have to throw these dodgeball-sized balls as hard as you can) and a little bit of football (there’s some decent blocking and tackling going on in the middle).”

Is Iceland good at it?

Football  Iceland is number 37 (June 2015) on FIFA's World Ranking for national teams in association football. Currently Iceland has players in teams such as Ajax in Holland, Swansea in the English Premier League, Real Sociedad in Spain's La Liga and Verona in Italy's Seria A, to name a few

Handball  Icelandic handball players are playing professionally in all of Europe's top leagues. Iceland’s national team current IHF ranking is number 18. The national team took silver in the Peking Olympics in 2008, finished in the top eight at the London Olympics in 2012 and finished number five at the 2014 European Championship. 

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