Handball guide - London 2012 Olympic Games

Your complete guide to handball ahead of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Photograph: Handball via Shutterstock

Converted: Fast, physical and with more goals in a match than Beckham scores in a month... no wonder it’s the second most popular sport in Europe.

Confused: Soccer for cheats.

RECOMMENDED: See our full list of London 2012 Olympic sport guides

Handball - The essential guide

Street cred: More than 30 million people play handball worldwide, according to the International Handball Federation. In the US, the number of participants is closer to 30.

Who’s good? The French men and Russian women are the current front-runners.

The basics: Essentially, they have to chuck it in the goal. Players are allowed to dribble with the ball; i.e run while bouncing it, with three steps permitted between each bounce. They are barred from the semi-circle around each goal unless they are fully elevated from the ground, which makes for some interesting Superman-style shots.

Athlete to watch: Cristina Neagu is a sultry, 22-year-old Romanian brunette considered the world’s best female player.

Almost useless fact: Handball was the first sport to sell out at the last two Olympic games.

As seen in: ‘The Reader’ (2008), the Nazi war crimes movie starring Kate Winslet in which the lead character, played by David Kross, is a keen handball player.

Do say: 'Manchester United goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel started off as a handball player.’

Don't say: 'Handball!'