Handball player leaps towards the goal prior to throwing the ball, while the goalkeeper extends himself trying to stop it. This was the Bosnian handball team playing in Visoko against Greece in the qualification for European championship.
a 7m penalty shot
Handball (also known as team handball, field handball, European 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), though, as the name implies, the basic method of handling the ball involves the player's hands rather than their feet. It has been played internationally since the first half of the 20th century.
Handball is played on a court forty meters long by twenty meters (40mx20m) 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 (6m) away from the goal. There is also a dashed near-semicircular line that is nine meters (9m) away from the goal.
After having been scored a goal against players of the team must move to the line in the very middle of the pitch. A player must be standing with the ball under control, whereafter the referee will blow his whistle to make the play go on. Note: All players of the team which are restarting the play, must be behind the line on their own half, or else the restarting throw will have to be retaken.
Only the defending goalkeeper is allowed to step inside the six meter (6m) 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. A penalty throw, which must be taken from the seven meter line after the whistle blows, can also be given, if the defender is blocking the attacker's way to goal standing inside the goal perimeter.
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). Some American versions use a volleyball. 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. After taking three steps the player will have to make a dribble with one hand in order to continue moving forward, but if the ball is held in both hands after making a dribble and the player makes another dribble, a free throw will be given to the other team for "a double dribble". There are many unofficial rule variations; a common American version allows only a single step with the ball, after which the player must pass the ball to another teammate or shoot.
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, two extension periods of 10 minutes are played, and if they also end in a draw another two times five minutes has to be played. If each of these ends in a tie after the extra time the winner is determined by an individual shootout from the 7-meter line, where each team is given five shots. The rules of the shootout is similar to the one of soccer, where, if a winner is not found within the first ten shots, the players return to the shooting, until one team has missed and the other scored. In two Olympic Finals of womens handball penalty shootout had to be used - both of them with Denmark participating (against Hungary in 1996 and South Korea in 2004); and both of them with Denmark as the winner.
The game is quite fast and includes body and contact as the defenders try to stop the attackers from approaching the goal. Only frontal contact by the defenders is allowed; when a defender stops an attacker with his or her arms instead of his or her torso, the play is stopped and restarted from the spot of the infraction or on the nine meter line, with the attacking team in possession.
Women's Handball - a jump shot
Penalties are given to players, in progressive format, if the contact between the players is particularly rough (even if it is indeed frontal). The referees may award a nine-meter free throw to the attacking team, or if the infraction was during a clear scoring opportunity, a seven-meter penalty shot is given. In more extreme cases they give the defender a yellow card (warning), a 2-minute penalty, or a red card (permanent expulsion). For rough fouls they can also order two-minute expulsions and a red card expulsion without having to warn the player first. Alternatively, if a player insults the referee - either by touching him with the intension to push or with verbal abuse, or if a player kicks or hits an opponent deliberately, the referee can expel the player forming a cross over his head with his arms, which will tell the player that he/she will have to leave the gym hall completely. Both a red card or an expulsion will - if the referee does not regret his decision within twenty-four hours - result in a quarantine for the player shown out. A team can only get three warnings (yellow cards); after that they will only be able to be penalised with 2-minute suspensions. One player can only get three 2-minute suspensions; after that he/she will be shown the red card, and cannot participate in that game anymore. A red card from three 2-minute suspensions does not result in a quarantine, such as a direct red card does. A Coach/Official can also be penalised progressively. After a yellow card and a 2-minute suspension, the red card is shown straight out, and unlike players, coaches cannot be shown a complete expulsion, but of course also be given a match quarantine. When shown a 2-minute suspension a coach will have to pull out one of his players for two minutes - note: the players is not the one punished and can be substituted in again, because the main penalty is the team playing with a man less than the other.
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 gesticulatingly or verbally rejecting to follow the referee's order, as well as arguing with his/her decisions, will normally result in a 2-minute suspension. Alternatively, if it is done in a very provocative way, a player can be given a 2-minute suspension if he/she does not walk straight out on the bench after been given a suspension, or if the referee considers the tempo deliberately slow.
Ball movement and possession is similar to basketball. If the attacker commits an infraction, such as charging, 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 without dribbling or after stopping their dribble. However unlike basketball, the player may take three steps instead of two (pivoting on one foot is considered a step) and the ball must be "patted" down instead of the more controlled basketball method.
Typical scene in a handball game
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 (also known as the pivot or line player, somewhat similar to the hole set (2-meter) in water polo), disrupting the defense formation, and the other being the playmaker (similar to basketball). The formations are very variated from country to country. The most common formation for the central european teames as well as the scandinavian teams is 6-0, but it can alternatively be extended to a 5-1, if you want a man (usually the far wing is placed as a disturbance for the other team in the middle in front of the 9-meter perimeter) to disturb the play of the other team. Even more different the Ukrainian team "HC Motor Zaporyshe" tend to play. As their basis of play they play a 3-3 formations with man marking all over their defensive area, which can make it really difficult for the attacking team to make any open chances. Primarily this formation is used by teams outside Eastern Europe only when behind with a few goals with a few minutes left, in the attempt to steal the ball faster.
Goals are much more common in handball than in most other sports; usually, both teams score at least 20 goals, and it is not uncommon to have a match end (say) 33-31. This was not true in the earliest days, when the scores were more akin to that of ice hockey, but as offensive play (in particular in terms of counterattacks after a failed attack from the other team) has improved, more and more goals have been scored each match.
Another set of team handball rules was published on October 29, 1917 by Max Heiser, Karl Schelenz and Erich Konigh from Germany. After 1919 these rules were further improved by Karl Schelenz. The first international games were played under these rules, between Germany and Belgium for men in 1925 and Germany and Austria for women in 1930.
In 1926, the Congress of the International Amateur Athletics Federation nominated a committee to draw up international rules for field handball. The International Amateur Handball Federation was formed in 1928. The International Handball Federation was formed later in 1946
The International Handball Federation has organized Men's World Championships in 1938, and then every two, three or sometimes four years since the World War II. The Women's World Championships have been played since 1957. The IHF also organizes Women's and Men's Junior World Championships.
As of December 2006, the IHF reports to have 159 member federations representing approximately 1,130,000 teams and a total of 31 million players, trainers, officials and referees.
Croatia retained its independence until 1102, when, after decades of inner struggles, the country entered a dynastic union with the Kingdom of Hungary under the name "Lands of the Crown of St. Stephen". Croatian statehood was preserved through a number of institutions, notably the Sabor which served as an assembly of Croatian nobles, and the ban or viceroy. Furthermore, the Croatian nobles retained their lands and titles.
The Battle of Mohács in 1526 led the Croatian Parliament to elect the Habsburgs to the throne of Croatia. Habsburg rule eventually thwarted Ottoman expansion, and by the eighteenth century, many of the Croatian territories that had previously been Ottoman passed to the Austrians. The odd crescent shape of the Croatian lands remained as a mark, more or less, of the frontier to the Ottoman advance into Europe. Further south, Istria, Dalmatia and Dubrovnik all eventually passed to the Habsburg Monarchy between 1797 and 1815.
Along with Slovenia, Croatia declared its independence from Yugoslavia on June 25, 1991, which triggered the Croatian War of Independence. The Serb population living in Croatia revolted, supported by the Yugoslav army and paramilitary extremist groups from Serbia. The ensuing months saw combat between newly established Croatian Army and joint Yugoslav/Serb armed forces. Following this stage of the war, the independence of Croatia was internationally-recognized. The war ended in 1995, after the Croatian Army successfully launched two major military operations to retake the occupied area. The war left hundreds of thousands refugees on both sides, and thousands were killed either in battle or by ethnic cleansing.
At the time of modern Croatia's first president Franjo Tuđman's death in December 1999, the country was in a perilous state. The HDZ lost power after the presidential and parliamentary elections at the beginning of 2000, which ushered in a new era of politicians who pledged commitment to political and economic reforms and Croatia's integration into the European mainstream. The left-centre coalition government was led by the SDP until November 2003, when the reformed HDZ formed minority government. President Stjepan Mesić, coming from centrist/liberal party HNS, was elected two times, in 2000 and 2005. The constitution has been changed to shift power away from the president to the parliament. Croatia has joined the World Trade Organization and opened up the economy, making it grow and inflation was kept under control. It joined NATO's Partnership for Peace program and became an official candidate for membership in that alliance. By early 2003 it had made sufficient progress to apply for European Union membership, becoming the second EU candidate country from former Yugoslavia, after Slovenia (who joined the EU on May 1, 2004). Accession negotiations were opened on October 3, 2005, and the country is expected to become an EU member state in 2009 or 2010.
Croatia has a mixture of climates. In the north and east it is continental, Mediterranean along the coast and a semi-highland and highland climate in the south-central region. Offshore Croatia consists of over one thousand islands varying in size.
The President of the Republic (Predsjednik) is the head of state, directly elected to a five-year term and is limited by the Constitution to a maximum of two terms. In addition to being the commander in chief of the armed forces, the president has the procedural duty of appointing the Prime minister with the consent of the Parliament, and has some influence on foreign policy.
The Croatian Parliament (Sabor) is a unicameral legislative body (a second chamber, the "House of Counties", which was set up by the Constitution of 1990, has been abolished in 2001 ). The number of the Sabor's members can vary from 100 to 160; they are all elected by popular vote to serve four-year terms. The plenary sessions of the Sabor take place from January 15 to July 15, and from September 15 to December 15.
The Croatian Government (Vlada) is headed by the Prime minister who has two deputy prime ministers and fourteen ministers in charge of particular sectors of activity. The executive branch is responsible for proposing legislation and a budget, executing the laws, and guiding the foreign and internal policies of the republic.
Zadar, St. Donatus' Church, a pre-Romanesque church from the 9th century
Croatia has an economy based mostly on various services and some, mostly light, industry. Tourism is a notable source of income during the summer. With over 8,5 million foreign tourists a year, Croatia is ranked as the 18th major tourist destination in the world.
The Croatian economy is post-communist. In the late 1980s, at the beginning of the process of economic transition, its position was favourable, but it was gravely impacted by de-industrialization and war damages as well as having problems from losing the markets of Yugoslavia and the SEV.
Main economic problems include high unemployment (15.7% in 2006) and an insufficient amount of economic reforms. Of particular concern is the heavily backlogged judiciary system, combined with inefficient public administration, especially involving land ownership. The unemployment is especially high is eastern parts of Croatia (Slavonia, eastern Dalmatia), reaching 20% in some areas, and relatively low in larger cities, Istria, Kvarner, Zagreb-area, being under 7%. Unemployment has been constantly declining by 5% each over the last 7 years. 
The country has since experienced faster economic growth and has been preparing for membership in the European Union, its most important trading partner.
In February 2005, the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU officially came into force and Croatia is currently advancing further towards full EU membership. The country expects some major economic impulses and high growth rates in the following next years (currently Croatia suffers from high export deficit and considerable debt). Croatia is expecting a boom in investments, especially greenfield investments.
The population of Croatia has been stagnating over the last decade. The 1991–1995 war in Croatia had previously displaced large parts of the population and increased emigration. Some Croats who fled the country during the war are returning. The natural growth rate is minute or negative (less than ± 1%), as the demographic transition has been completed half a century ago. Average life expectancy is approximately 75 years, and the literacy rate is 98.5%.
Croatia is inhabited mostly by Croats (89.9%). There are around twenty minorities, Serbs being the largest one (4.5%) and others having less than 0.5% each. The predominant religion is Catholicism (87.8%), with some Orthodox (4.4%) and Sunni Muslim (1.3%) minorities.
(Croatian) Agičić et al., Povijest i zemljopis Hrvatske, priručnik za hrvatske manjinske škole (History and Geography of Croatia, a handbook for Croatian minority schools), Biblioteka Geographica Croatica, 292 pages, Zagreb:2000 (ISBN 953-6235-40-4)