Based in Basel, Switzerland, the International Handball Federation (IHF) is the official world governing body for the sport of Handball. Made up of six continental federations, IHF is responsible for global development, officiating and training, establishment of playing standards and rules, and the management of their flagship competitions. The World Championship for both women and men feature every second year. The six continental federations are the Asian Handball Federation, the African Handball Federation, the North America and the Caribbean Handball Confederation, the European Handball Federation, the South and Central America Handball Confederation, and the Oceania Continental Handball Federation. Most of these federations are responsible for organising their own championships, which are also played every second year. The competitions are the Pan American Games, the All-Africa Games, the Asian Games, and the Mediterranean Games. Apart from the World Championships and Continental Championships, IHF also oversee a World Tour competition between clubs. The federation was established in 1946 and currently has over 200 national member federations. The sport is the most popular in Europe and since 1938, European nations have won every world championship for men and women except for three. IHF and the sport of handball is officially recognised by the International Olympic Committee. The sport is also part of the Olympic Games summer programme.
Handball is a team sport consisting of seven players in each team. There are six outcourt players and one goalkeeper. A ball is passed among players using their hands and the main objective is to throw it into the goal of the opposing team. A match lasts for sixty minutes, divided into two periods of thirty minutes. The team who scores the most goals wins the match. The court of the modern game is 40 metres by 20 metres with a goal at each end. The goal is within a zonal area of 6 metres and only the defending goalkeeper is permitted here. The sport is mainly played indoors, but there are variations of the game played outdoors. Czech handball is a good example of this. The other popular and fast-growing variant is beach handball. Players of handball are known for their extreme fitness and great speed. In the modern game, the number of goals normally average 25 per match. The sport has no specific mandate for protective gear, despite body contact being permitted. Players may wear soft protective pads, bands and mouth guards. In 1917 the first rules were published, which was also the year for the first international. Handball made its first appearance at the 1936 Summer Olympics as an outdoor sport and again in 1972, but on this occasion played indoors. It has been a fixture at every summer Olympics since then.