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Understanding the duration of handball matches

THE handball is a sport played indoors with a team of seven players, including a goalkeeper. Teams compete in a match aiming to score the most goals in the allotted time. But do you know how long a handball match lasts? The answer varies depending on several criteria such as the age category of the players and the nature of the competition. In this article, we will explore the different aspects related to the duration of a handball match.

Regulation duration of a handball match

In general, the handball match duration is divided into two halves separated by a break. The time that constitutes each period depends mainly on the age category of the players:

  • Adults: for adults (18 and over), each half generally lasts 30 minutes. Thus, the total playing time is 60 minutes or one hour.
  • Juniors: for this age category (16-18 years), halves are reduced to 25 minutes each, making a total of 50 minutes for the entire match.
  • Cadets: among young people aged 14 to 16, the duration of the halves is further shortened, since they each last 20 minutes for a total playing time of 40 minutes.
  • Minimal: half-times are reduced to 15 minutes for this category (12-14 years), which is equivalent to a match duration of 30 minutes.

Please note that the break between the two halves generally lasts 10 minutes, regardless of the age category or level of competition.

Duration of women’s and men’s matches

Without distinction between sexes, the rules regarding the duration of handball matches are identical. Thus, the women’s and men’s matches have exactly the same duration, depending on the age category mentioned previously. Therefore, each player enjoys the same playing time and is subject to the same rules, regardless of gender.

The duration and context of the match: tournaments and competitions

There are also some exceptions in terms of match duration, notably during certain tournaments or specific competitions:

  • Friendly tournament: during a friendly tournament organized outside an official structure, the duration of the matches may be modified in order to best suit the needs of the event. The organizers can therefore decide to shorten half-times or limit the number of breaks.
  • Official tournament: In competitions planned by the handball federation or association, the duration of the matches is generally respected. However, certain modifications may be made for junior and cadet tournaments.

Time stoppage and overtime during a handball match

During a handball match, time can be stopped during different situations, such as:

  • A change of player (replacement)
  • A player injury requiring on-field medical attention
  • A technical problem, such as a lighting or hardware fault

When this happens, the referee signals a timeout and the stopwatch clock is stopped. This interruption does not count in the normal playing time and is added to the total duration of the match. On the other hand, timeouts requested by coaches are counted in the duration of each half, and each team has one minute to take a tactical break.

In the event of a tie at the end of an important match (e.g. final phase of a competition), overtime may be played. They are made up of two periods of five minutes each, interspersed by a one-minute break. If the tie persists after these additional ten minutes, a penalty shootout is organized to determine the winner.

In conclusion, the duration of a handball match mainly depends on the age category of the players and the context in which the meeting takes place. However, it should be noted that the rules are generally respected during official competitions, thus ensuring good fairness between teams and the smooth running of the game.

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