Interest in UK women’s handball soars 600 percent

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Handball Islington

NOT particularly talented but want to try out a new sport? Thought of handball? Islington Handball Club is recruiting.

“You don’t need to have any ability; you just need to be able to catch,” says Ambroise Salaün, head coach and founder of Islington Handball Club.

“Even if you’ve never played before, you don’t start from scratch because handball incorporates aspects of lots of other sports like rugby, netball, and basketball,” he adds.

The man should know. Originally from France (handball is massive there) he played handball semi-professionally 25 years ago, before moving to London, and setting up the Islington Handball Club in November of last year.

For the unenlightened, handball is basically intense netball, but the restrictions as to where you can go depending on the lettering on your bib do not apply.

Handball Islington
Photo by Wikimedia Commons

You run around (really, really fast), throw a small ball to each other (again really fast), and try to throw it in the goal. It’s played in teams of seven on a pitch that’s the same size as a five-aside football pitch. Essentially it’s football with your hands (hence the name).Whilst fairly niche in the UK, handball is massive on the Continent and is part of the school curriculum because it’s so beneficial for coordination.

Should you join the club, you may be in on the next big craze.

“It’s the second or third most popular sport in countries such as France and in Scandinavia, but it’s becoming more popular in England, it’s on the rise,” said Salaün. In the last few years in the UK, women’s handball has seen a 600 percent increase.

At present Islington Handball Club have between 30 and 40 members on both their adults’ and boys’ teams, and are soon to start running more sessions for girls, another session for boys, and one for primary school age children on a Saturday at London Metropolitan University (times are to be confirmed).

Next year the team are to start playing in competitions rather than the friendlies they currently play.

Whilst British handball has had all of its central funding cut for elite athletes, grassroots funding has doubled from £0.6m to £1.2m in recent years, a move intended to support the Olympians of tomorrow.

Should you join Islington Handball Club, there is a chance (albeit a small one) that this could be you.