Until now, my only experience of handball was back in secondary school when about 30 pubescent girls and boys turned our hopeful sport teacher’s game of handball into a rowdy game of dodgeball. Not quite what our teacher wanted, but fun nonetheless. But just recently, I watched as the Olympic Qualifications unfolded and the Netherlands Women’s Handball team made it, for the first time ever. Witnessing this historical achievement and the excitement in the Netherlands, well, it got me hooked.
As someone who clearly appreciates sport, I was pretty excited when I read that this very team, along with three others (Sweden, Russia and Montenegro), were coming to Eindhoven to play in the Cocoa From Ghana Four Country Tournament. This is their last competition before making their way to Rio. All four teams are world class so it’s quite the event for our city!
Before heading off to see the Netherlands play Sweden on Tuesday evening, I took a quick look at the basic rules of handball. Here’s what I discovered:
• There are 6 players and 1 goalie on court
• Substitutions can be made at any time
• There are two 30 minute halves
• The goal area is 6m in front of the goal – players can’t enter this area
• Defenders can’t pull, hold, or hit, but physical contact is allowed
• Attackers can bounce the ball
• Attackers can take three steps with the ball – after that they must pass or shoot
• To score a goal, attackers throw the ball from outside the goal area. They can also jump (or fly!) above it but can’t enter it if they have the ball in their hands.
The Indoor Sport Centrum was packed to the rafters for the Netherlands – Sweden match. It was loud, hot and awash with orange. The crowd was clearly one sided, and the home advantage saw the Netherlands score hard and fast in the first half. The atmosphere was electric and the crowd was shouting, applauding, and chanting their support for the Dutch Dames. The half time break saw the Netherlands in the lead 12-9.
Coming into the second half, Sweden came alive. They were scoring goals left, right and centre. Within about three minutes they had levelled the score, and after the next three minutes they were ahead by two. Where was the fast paced, attacking Orange side from the first half? Were they going to be totally outplayed now?
Although they were trailing by four points around the 50 minute mark, the Dutch Ladies never gave up. They kept fighting, and kept scoring. It was 24-25 with only minutes to go. The crowd was on their feet, cheering and willing their team on. Sweden scored again, and the Netherlands followed that with another one in. There were only seconds left…and then the final whistle blew.
Sweden pipped them at the post. But what a thrilling match right to the end!
Tonight, 20 July at 20.30, the Netherlands play Russia. Tomorrow sees them up against Montenegro and at the moment there are still tickets available at the cash register. But you’d better get in quick – they are likely to go in a flash! The matches will also be aired on Ziggo Sport (channel 14). Watch them! It’s definitely worth it!