By Barrie White, Senior Reporter
As Great Britain counts down to the start of the Olympics, MM will be running a regular series focusing on each of the Olympic sports in turn, with the spotlight on one of the most popular team sports in Europe - Handball.
Team GB men and Women's teams are making their debuts at the 2012 Olympic Games in London but the sport has been present at the Games since 1972 at Munich, with a women's competition first played at Montreal four years later.
Developed in Northern Europe, the aim of the game is quite simple: score more goals than your opponents. Played on a court, handball is fast flowing, end-to-end sport and is regarded as one of the most physical sports around. Basic rules are that players are not allowed to enter the area, cannot use their feet, can only take three steps and hold the ball for three seconds without bouncing it.
Second only to football as the most popular team sport in Europe, handball has been dominated by Balkan states, with Croatia/Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union/Russia winning the most gold medals in the men's game while the women's game has been dominated by Denmark and South Korea.
Team GB's target is to finish in the top eight and get out of the group stages.
Manchester is a hotbed of handball with three clubs competing nationally in England. However, Salford's Ciaran Williams is a former Team GB captain and he says the sport's potential is still untapped in the city.
He said: "People within Manchester are probably totally unaware about how big handball is here. Because it's something that Manchester can be proud of, especially handball, which is still growing."
Clubs can be found here:
Salford Handball Club - http://www.salfordhandball.org.uk/
Manchester Handball Club - http://www.manchesterhandballclub.co.uk/
Manchester University Handball Club - http://manunihandball.weebly.com/
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