Handball is a popular sport in Norway, next to football (soccer). The fun thing about handball is that the girls are often better than the boys! Norway’s kvinnelandslaget i håndball (National Women’s Handball Team) is very good and always finds a place in the top three in the Olympics or World Championships–they won gold at the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
Handball can be described as ‘soccer for the hands’. The game is very fast and only has two 30min halves (any longer and the players might evaporate into thin air). There are six players and one (un-padded) goalie per side. Tactics is what makes this game exciting. Each team tries to trick the other into creating an opening at the base line to get a good shot at the goal. Each goal is a point on the scoreboard, so, obviously, the team with the most points wins.
In some respects I can see the game is also like basketball–the court is a small 20x40m outlined area, usually indoors (but there is also professional beach and field handball). Even though the goals are like miniature soccer goals, the players need to jump up and ‘slam’ the ball over the opposing team to get it into the net. Often goals are scored by players flying through the air, like Superman, above the other team and throwing the ball into the net right before they crash to the floor–crazy! The game is all about quick passes but when a player gets a run then they must bounce the ball every three steps. At professional games they even have the little guy playing the Hammond organ when the ball is in serious pass-mode near the goals. The crowd has cowbells and air-horns, flags and body paint to support their teams.
Handball dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, even ancient Egypt has its own version. There are also literary references to handball in German and French medieval texts. However, it was Northern Europe, (the Scandinavians and Germany) that developed the handball that we have today.
In 1946 the International Handball Federation was formed and there have been world championships ever since. Even before handball became an international sport, it was featured at an Olympic games. Hitler requested for Men’s Field Handball to be played at the Berlin 1936 Olympics but the sport didn’t become a regular until 1972.
There have been many heroes in Norwegian handball. The most notable female player is Susann Goksør Bjerkrheim. She has played in 300 national matches and was Captain from 1993 – 2000 of the Norwegian women’s team. Since retirement, she has supported Norwegian sports and has become a regular celebrity. In 2006, she was a contestant on Skal Vi Danse, the Norwegian version of Shall We Dance (Dancing with the Stars), and constantly made headlines with her ‘handball’ physique. Not bad for being retired, 36 and a mother of two.