Handball is a national game in the countries of Denmark and Iceland. Germany has the strongest handball league in the world. Handball is the 3rd most popular sport in France and Spain and it’s also popular in Scandinavia, Romania, Hungary, Algeria, Libya, and Egypt.
Germany is the birthplace of handball. But today, it’s not the most popular sport in the country, being overtaken by football. Still, smaller cities that don’t have a top football team generally gravitate towards handball and their league is considered to be one of the best in the world.
At the end of the 19th century, handball spread from Germany to neighboring countries in Scandinavia and even beyond. In 1906, Holger Nielsen, a Danish teacher, published the first set of written rules of the game. But modern handball rules were first published in 1917. While handball has German roots, it is not the country’s national game. However, sport is valuable and popular in many other countries such as France, Spain, and Romania. Here’s a glimpse into how the sport looks in a few of these countries.
Handball is Denmark’s national game. Judging by pure spectators’ numbers, handball would be the second most popular sport in Denmark. However, the Danish Handball Association counter more than 140.000 members just a few years ago. At a popular of 5 million people, this statistic speaks for itself.
- Denmark won the European Handball Championship 2 times
- Denmark won the World Championship 1 time
- Denmark counted 1 presence at the Olympic Games
- Handball is played in Denmark from the 19th century under the name of håndbold
- Denmark laid the foundation of modern handball rules
- In 1946, both Denmark and Sweden laid the foundations of the International Handball Federation (IHF)
- Top Danish handball players include SG Flensburg-Handewitt’s Anders Eggert and Viborg’s Champions League winner Ann Grete Nørgaard
Handball is Iceland’s national game. Some name handball of equal importance to body-wrestling.
- Handball was introduced to Iceland in 1920
- It became a great exercise during the cold winter months
- During the 2008 Olympic games, public schools closed in Iceland so that kids could watch their nations’ live games
- Iceland had notable performance in the 2010 European Championship and at the 2012 Olympic Games in London
- Iceland is known for its handball and other sports facilities networks even in the smallest towns and villages
The question “Handball Is Which Country’s National Game” would be answered with – France – by a football fan.
- Handball is played in France since Medieval times as it was considered a sport of the masses
- France is the only national handball team holding 6 world championship titles
- Top French players making their mark on handball’s history include Nikola Karabatic
- At the moment, handball players born in other countries play for France’s national team
- These players include Nikola Karabatic (Serbia), Cédric Sorhaindo (Martinique), Nicolas Claire (Reunion)
Spain is one of the most successful handball teams in history. Its men’s team already won 2 world titles and handball clubs from the country are known for their international strength.
- FC Barcelona Handbol has won 26 domestic titles, making it Spain’s undeniable leader for the number of trophies
- Famous rivalries include FC Barcelona vs. Atletico Madrid BM
- Atletico is back since 2011 after being disbanded in 1992
- Famous players include HBC Nante’s Alberto Entrrios, CB Logroño’s Albert Rocas and Andrea Barnó, playing for the women’s national team
- Since the early ’90s, Spain’s national handball team won 8 medals in international tournaments
- Bronze medals were won at the Olympics
- Spain has also qualified to the later stages of the European Championships 4 times
Romania has an impressive handball heritage, mostly before the 1990s and the fall of the communist regime.
- Handball entered Romania in the 1920s via its large German ethnic community
- Romania’s national women’s team has won the first World Championship against Germany in 1956 when a handball was played outdoors, in teams of 11
- In the early decades of the sport, Romania’s national men’s handball team dominated World Cup-winning the tournament 4 times
- Notable players include the world’s best-paid Cristina Neagu and retired goalkeeper Liminita Dinu
- In 1992, IHF nominated Gheorghe Gruia as the most successful handball player of all times
- In 1978, Gruia left Romania with $7 in his pocket and laid the foundation of handball in Mexico
Handball has a beautiful history in Sweden. The country has a handball federation established in 1930.
- There are over 120.000 registered handball players in Sweden at all levels
- Bengan Boys is considered one of handball’s most successful teams in history
- Its nickname comes from its coach, Bengt Johansson
- In Europe, Sweden is only matched by France at national teams continental titles
- Sweden won 4 European trophies in men’s competitions
Handball is popular in Norway. However, handball is not the country’s national game.
- Norway’s men’s handball team only qualified to the 1972 Olympics in Berlin
- Norway’s women’s handball team has won 6 international titles
- Sandefjord TIF is Norway’s most successful men’s handball club
- Larvik HK is the country’s most successful women’s handball club
Which countries aim to get into handball?
Many countries look towards improving handball performance by public investments. Handball has potential with proper media coverage in Australia and the US. Handball is also declining in certain countries such as in the UK, were handball’s public funding has been cut after the London Olympics.