Main rules of the game:
Official competitions take place indoors. It is also possible, however, to play handball on synthetic turf and polyurethane surfaces. Moreover, beach handball, i.e. a version of handball played on sand, is gaining popularity. Traditional handball is played by two teams consisting of 14 players each. Each team has seven court players including the goalkeeper. Substitutions are unlimited and permitted at any time. Frequently, players are substituted by the coach depending on whether the team is currently attacking or defending. The aim of the game is to score more goals than the opposition.
A match is divided into two 30-minute halves with a 10-minute break. During each half a coach can ask for a 60-second break. Players can throw, catch, push and hold the ball. They can handle the ball with any part of the body besides feet and legs below knees. This restriction, however, does not apply to the goalkeeper within his goal area. A player in possession of the ball can pass it, bounce it, or hold it for three seconds. Holding the ball, a player cannot take more than three steps. Punching or pulling the ball out of the opponent's hand is not allowed, and so is pushing or holding an opponent. For serious foul play players are penalized with a two-minute suspension. Three such suspensions result in disqualification from further play. Prior to this, a player may be given a yellow card, i.e. a warning which results in being noted in the game report. Conventionally, a team can receive up to three such warnings. Subsequent fouls are punished with exclusions. Fouls which occur when throwing or defending in the zone, i.e. the goal area, are penalized with penalty shots taken from a distance of seven metres from the goal. There is no time limit for an action. The referees determine its duration. First, they give a team a warning for the so-called passive play by raising a bent arm. When no attempt to score occurs, they award the ball to the other team.
The playing court is 40x20 m. There are two goal areas marked by semicircular lines six metres away from the goal. Only the goalkeeper is allowed to remain in the goal area. A semicircular dashed line nine metres away from the goal marks the spot from which free throws are taken.
The goal is 2 m high and 3 m wide. The ball is composed of a rubber bladder covered with leather or synthetic material which cannot be shiny or slippery. Additionally, to facilitate manoeuvring the ball, players use special adhesives. The circumference of the ball for men is 58-60 cm, for women it is 54-56 cm. The weight of the ball does not exceed half a kilo.
All field players wear identical clothes, short sleeve jerseys and shorts. To distinguish themselves from field players, goalkeepers usually wear a tracksuit. The colours of clothing chosen by both teams should be sufficiently different to allow immediate identification of players. Players cannot wear the same colour clothes as the opposition's goalkeeper. It is not permitted to wear head protection, jewellery, hard-rimmed glasses, and other items that might be dangerous to other players.