Handball - generalities
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 has a goal similar to but smaller than the one in football (soccer), though as the name implies, the basic method of handling the ball involves the players' hands rather than their feet. The game has been played internationally since the 1920s.
Handball is played on a court forty meters long by twenty meters wide (40mx20m), 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, called the crease. There is also a dashed near-semicircular line that is nine meters (9m) away from the goal. In established play (which is most of the time, although counterattacking is becoming increasingly important), the defenders stand right outside the 6m line, with the attacking players throwing the ball to each other a bit outside the 9m line, trying to create an attack (either by shooting from a distance, or passing to a player standing at the 6m line).
After a goal has been scored, the team conceding the goal restarts the game. Its players move to the center line. Once a player has the ball under control the referee will blow his whistle to restart play. 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.
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.
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.