Welcome to the thrilling world of handball in Croatia, a country renowned for its passion and success in this fast-paced, highly competitive sport. As an Olympic favourite and second-biggest sport in Europe, handball captures the hearts of fans across the nation with its blend of agility, fitness, and teamwork.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn about the history of Croatian handball, famous clubs and players who have left their mark on the game, key rules you need to know as well as where to experience live matches first-hand.

Key Takeaways

  • Handball has a rich history in Croatia, with the introduction of the sport dating back to the early 1930s and tremendous success on both national and international levels.
  • Basic rules and gameplay involve two teams of seven players each, aiming to throw the ball into their opponent’s net without stepping in the semi-circle around it. Players are not allowed to dribble but can take up to three steps before passing or shooting.
  • Top handball clubs in Croatia include HC PPD Zagreb and RK Nexe Našice, while star players like Domagoj Duvnjak and Ivano Balić have left a significant mark on Croatian handball history. Experiencing handball games live can provide an immersive cultural experience complete with traditional cuisine, music, and hospitality.

The History And Popularity Of Handball In Croatia

Handball in Croatia has a rich history, dating back to the early 1930s when it was first introduced by German workers in Zagreb. Over the years, the sport has grown significantly in popularity and is now considered one of Croatia’s most beloved team sports.

The Origin And Development Of Handball In Croatia

Handball was first introduced to Croatia in the early 20th century, but it wasn’t until after World War II that the sport truly took off. The formation of the Yugoslavian Handball Federation in 1948 marked a turning point for handball in Croatia.

The country’s passion for handball only continued to grow following its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. With newfound freedom, Croatia quickly established its own National Handball Federation and made an unforgettable entrance onto the world scene by winning gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – just five years after gaining independence.

Croatian handball has evolved significantly over time; modern techniques have been adopted while retaining traditional playing styles that are deeply rooted within local heritage.

The Success Of The Croatian National Team

The Croatian national handball team has a long history of international success. They have won numerous medals, including two Olympic golds in 1996 and 2004. In addition to their Olympic success, they have also won three World Championship silver medals and five European Championship silver medals.

These achievements have earned the team a reputation as one of the best in the world, with many talented players hailing from Croatia such as Ivano Balić and Luka Cindrić.

Handball In Croatian Culture

Handball is deeply ingrained in Croatian culture, with the sport being widely played and cherished by many across the country. The national team’s success over the years has further enhanced its popularity, cementing handball as one of Croatia’s most-loved sports.

In addition to its athletic significance, handball also holds cultural value for Croatians. It reflects their passion for teamwork and perseverance, qualities that are highly regarded within their society.

Moreover, traditional Croatian cuisine and folk music often feature prominently at Handball games, providing a welcoming atmosphere that showcases Croatia’s rich heritage beyond just sports.

Understanding Handball Rules And Gameplay

Handball is played with two teams of seven players each, including a goalkeeper, and the aim is to score goals by throwing the ball into the opponent’s net without stepping in the designated semi-circle around it.

Basic Rules And Positions

Handball is a team sport played on an indoor court between two teams of seven players each. The objective of the game is to score goals by throwing the ball into the opponent’s goal while preventing them from doing the same. Here are some basic rules and positions in handball:

  1. Goalkeeper: The goalkeeper is responsible for guarding their team’s goalpost and blocking shots to prevent goals from being scored.
  2. Centre: The centre player starts the game and plays a crucial role in both attack and defense.
  3. Left and Right Backs: These players are primarily responsible for defending their side of the court and also play a significant role in attacking.
  4. Wingers: Known for their speed and agility, wingers stay near the sidelines and are essential in providing scoring opportunities.
  5. Pivot: This player usually stands closest to the opponent’s goal, using their strength to hold off defenders while setting up others for scoring opportunities.
  6. Dribbling is not allowed in handball, so players must pass or shoot within three seconds of receiving the ball.
  7. Players can take up to three steps without dribbling but have only three seconds after gaining possession of the ball before they need to release it.
  8. If a player commits a foul, they may be sent off with two minutes suspension, giving an advantage to the other team with them playing one man down during this period.

By understanding these basic rules and positions, you’ll be able to follow along with games more easily as well as develop your own skills if you choose to play handball yourself!

Scoring System

In handball, the aim is to throw the ball into the opponent’s goal as many times as possible. Each successful goal scored by a team adds one point to their scoreline. The team with the most points at the end of two 30-minute periods wins the game.

If there is a tie, extra time or penalty shootouts may be required to determine a winner. Additionally, players can also earn individual rewards such as “Player of the Match” or “Top Scorer” based on their performance during each game.

Fouls And Penalties

Fouls and penalties are an integral part of handball, ensuring fair play and safety for all players. Here are some of the most common fouls and their respective penalties:

Attacking fouls: These include charging into an opponent, pushing or hitting them, or obstructing their movements. The penalty for attacking fouls is a free-throw for the opposing team.

Defensive fouls: These include holding, tripping, or impeding an attacker’s movements. The penalty for defensive fouls is also a free-throw for the opposing team.

Goalkeeper fouls: If a goalkeeper steps out of their designated goal area or touches the ball with their feet outside this area, it results in a free-throw for the opposing team.

Unsportsmanlike conduct: This includes using foul language or gestures towards opponents, obstructing play deliberately to gain an unfair advantage, or intentionally injuring another player. The penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct can lead to player suspension or disqualification from the game.

It’s essential to note that repeated foul play by a player can result in them being sent off from the game entirely. Therefore, it’s vital to play within the rules and respect your fellow players on the court.

Top Handball Clubs And Players In Croatia

HC PPD Zagreb is the most successful handball club in Croatia, with 29 national championships and numerous European titles. Domagoj Duvnjak and Ivano Balić are two of the most famous Croatian handball players, both having won multiple individual awards and played for top teams across Europe.

HC PPD Zagreb

HC PPD Zagreb is one of the most prominent and successful handball clubs in Croatia. The team has won 28 titles in the Croatian Handball League, as well as numerous medals in European competitions.

The club’s home ground is the Arena Zagreb, which can accommodate up to 15,000 spectators. Fans flock from all over Croatia to watch this renowned team play live.

RK Nexe Našice

Another top handball club in Croatia is RK Nexe Našice. This team hails from the eastern town of Našice and has a rich history of success in both domestic and international competitions.

In recent years, RK Nexe Našice has also competed in European tournaments such as the EHF Cup and Challenge Cup. They have been known for their strong defense and fast-paced counter-attacks, led by star players like Tomislav Severec and Saša Barišić-Jaman.

Domagoj Duvnjak

One of the most accomplished players in Croatian handball history, Domagoj Duvnjak is a force to be reckoned with on the court. Born in 1988, Duvnjak has played for both the national team and leading club teams, including Hamburg and Kiel.

He is known for his speed, agility, and ability to score goals from anywhere on the court. In 2013 he was awarded IHF World Handball Player of The Year.

Ivano Balić

Ivano Balić is widely regarded as one of the greatest handball players of all time and a national hero in his native Croatia. A skilled playmaker with lightning-fast reflexes, Balić was part of the Croatian national team that won gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics and silver at both the 2005 World Championship and 2008 Beijing Olympics.

His talent on the court earned him numerous individual accolades, including being named IHF World Player of the Year in both 2003 and 2006. Off the court, he became a beloved celebrity in Croatia, often appearing on television shows and serving as an ambassador for Croatian tourism.

Experiencing Handball In Croatia

Discover the best destinations for catching handball games in Croatia, indulge in traditional Croatian cuisine and culture, get season information and updates, and find out how you can get involved with this thrilling sport.

Best Destinations To Catch Handball Games

If you’re a handball enthusiast visiting Croatia, here are some of the best destinations to catch live games:

Zagreb: The capital city is home to HC PPD Zagreb, one of the most successful handball clubs in Croatia. You can catch their games at the Arena Zagreb, which has a seating capacity of 15,000.

Našice: Located in eastern Croatia, Našice is home to RK Nexe Našice – another top tier Croatian handball club. You can watch their games at Gradski Sportski Centar Našice.

Split: This bustling coastal city is known for its basketball and football teams but also boasts a strong handball culture. HC Diocletian Split is one of the most popular clubs in town.

Poreč: This picturesque town on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula offers not only beautiful beaches but also high-quality handball tournaments such as “Istria Handball Cup.”

Varaždin: Located in Northern Croatia, Varaždin hosts the annual “Čakovec Handball Festival” – an international youth tournament that attracts teams from all over Europe.

Whether you attend a game at an indoor arena or experience beach handball on Croatia’s beautiful coastlines, watching live handball matches is a must-do activity for sports fans visiting this vibrant country.

Traditional Croatian Cuisine And Culture

No visit to Croatia is complete without indulging in their traditional cuisine and immersing oneself in the rich local culture. The country’s culinary scene is heavily influenced by its geography, history, and climate, resulting in a varied assortment of flavors and dishes that will leave any foodie satisfied.

Aside from delving into the delicious cuisine on offer, visitors can also explore Croatia’s fascinating history and cultural heritage. From exploring Dubrovnik’s historic city walls to visiting Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships or learning about traditional folk costumes at the Ethnographic Museum in Split – there are plenty of opportunities for cultural immersion.

Overall, whether you’re interested in sports or culture – or simply looking to indulge your taste buds – a trip to Croatia promises an unforgettable experience full of excitement, adventure, warmth, hospitality – all set against a backdrop of stunning natural beauty.

Season Information And Updates

Handball season in Croatia typically runs from late summer to spring, with the Croatian First League usually starting in September and finishing in May. The league comprises twelve teams that compete against each other twice over the season, including top teams like HC PPD Zagreb and RK Nexe Našice.

Recently, there has been much excitement as the 2023 IHF World Men’s Handball Championship was held in Poland and Sweden. Croatia drew with world champions Denmark during group stage matches before exiting at the knockout stage of competition.

Getting Involved In Handball In Croatia

If you’re interested in getting involved in handball in Croatia, there are a number of ways to do so:

  1. Join a local club – There are numerous handball clubs throughout Croatia, ranging from beginner level to more competitive teams. Joining a club is a great way to meet like-minded individuals and improve your skills.
  2. Attend a handball camp – Many camps are held throughout the year, both for beginners and more advanced players. This can be an excellent opportunity to receive coaching from experienced professionals.
  3. Watch games – Attending professional handball games is not only entertaining, but it can also help you learn more about the sport. You may even pick up some tips by watching the pros in action.
  4. Volunteer at events – Many handball events require volunteers to help with various tasks such as ticket sales, hospitality, and game-day operations. Volunteering can be a great way to get involved with the sport and meet new people.
  5. Try beach handball – Beach handball is a popular variation of the sport in Croatia and offers a fun twist for those looking for something different.

Remember that dedication and practice are key when it comes to improving your handball skills. With enough effort, anyone can become proficient at this exciting and fast-paced sport!


In conclusion, handball is a beloved and fast-paced sport in Croatia with a rich history of success both domestically and internationally. Understanding the rules and gameplay can enhance your enjoyment of watching or playing this exciting team sport.

Whether you’re a seasoned handball player or just learning about it for the first time, Croatia offers diverse experiences and opportunities to immerse yourself in this dynamic sport.

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Welcome to the thrilling world of handball in Croatia, a country renowned for its passion and success in this fast-paced, highly competitive sport. As an Olympic favourite and second-biggest sport in Europe, handball captures the hearts of fans across the nation with its blend of agility, fitness, and teamwork. In...