The ignorant sports fan’s guide to Olympic handball

An idiot’s guide to the Olympic handball tournament. 
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Pulling for your country in the the Olympics sometimes means pretending to care about a sport you know nothing about. It’s easy to root for a team in basketball or soccer, but what about field hockey or synchronized swimming? 

To help you pretend like you know something about the more obscure Olympic sports, we’ll be bringing you guides for idiots novices so you can fake your way through a conversation or pretend like you know what’s happening while you watch. Today: handball.

A new country could take handball gold at 2016 Rio Olympics

What the hell is it?

Imagine soccer if you were able to use your hands. Or basketball if the hoop was replaced by a ground-level goal.

You’ve probably seen handball in previous Olympics, or maybe played some semi-authentic version of it in gym class. It’s a 7-on-7 game (six players in the outfield and a goalie) played in 30-minute halves. You get three steps before you have to dribble. 

Why should you care?

This game is awesome. 

Is the U.S. any good?

No! Not at all! In fact, they’re very, very bad. Neither the men nor women have qualified for the Olympics since 1996, when they both qualified automatically as the host nation. The men’s last world championships appearance was a 24th-place finish in 2001. The women finished 17th in 1995. 

Rio disaster threat level

On a scale of “unfinished infrastructure” to “favela inferno,” what are the odds this is event is a spectacular failure?

Burning pile of trash


The handball venue is part of the Barra Olympic Park, which has been rife with problems. That’s where the much-maligned Olympic Village is. One Brazilian athlete called the park “a mess.”

Who’s the favorite?

France is the two-time defending men’s champion and has won three out of the last four world championships. Norway has the best women’s team in the world. 

If you’re looking for a team to root against, that’s easy: Qatar. The Qatari team is made up mostly of guys from other countries that Qatar paid to play for them. At the 2015 World Championships, Qatar paid 60 fans from Spain to come cheer for them