9

Category 2

Handball

June 2, 2021

How the sport encapsulates Danish culture

Denmark invented the sport of handball (sort of) and has some of the world's best international teams. The sport is relatively obscure in English speaking countries (UK, USA, Australia etc.). In this episode Sam and Josefine speak with the Head of the Danish Handball Federation to discuss all things handball, and what this means for Denmark

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The sport of handball has a rich history in Denmark.

The country invented the modern form of the game (so the story goes) and the men's team are the two-time reigning world champions.

In this episode, Sam and Josefine speak with the head of the Danish Handball Federation, Morten Stig Christensen, about his view on the sport and what it means for the country.

Through the discussions, a number of questions are answered, such as:

  • The history of the sport
  • Which countries do and don't play (and why)
  • What it takes to succeed in the sport
  • How to get involved

and the big question for people living in Denmark: why is handball so popular in Jutland (rural Denmark).

We provide answers to all these, as well as a discussion of how Danish foreninger (associations) represent a core component of Danish culture.

How the episode was made

Sam decided to go right to the source of handball in Denmark by reaching out to the Danish Handball Federation. A couple of weeks' later he sat down in the office of the Director General (and former national player) Morten Stig Christensen.


Morten showed Sam around his office and they chatted for a couple of hours about the history of the sport, Morten's perspectives on what it means for the country and, as he was uniquely placed to do, the direction he and the organisation want the sport to take.


  • Handball in Denmark is almost always organised in the form of foreninger (voluntary associations): which makes it a "grassroots", inclusive sport (vs other sports that require high membership fees etc)
  • Denmark invented the sport (sort of): it was a Danish high school teacher who wrote down the rules for team handball. A few years later there was an international convention in Germany where the rules were formalised
  • It is super popular in lots of countries: many (warm!) places like France and Spain have handball as their 2nd/ 3rd most popular sport
  • Handball was part of Cold War propaganda: the sport is popular in Eastern Europe and it was always a coup for a country behind the iron curtain to beat a team from a capitalist country
  • Mikkel Hansen is a superstar: he seems to be a bit like the David Beckham of Danish handball. Mikkel features in the photo of this episode's artwork
  • There's a reason handball is big in Jutland: the western (more rural) part of the country is renowned for its love of the sport. Morten explains the reasons (both "supply" and "demand") for this


Morten also generously answered Sam's many (newbie) questions about the sport which, if you don't know much about the sport, you might find helpful too.

A question for you

If Morten could "import" players from another sport to play handball what would it be? Listen towards the end to find out!

What do you think?

Have you ever thought about how handball encapsulates Danish culture? 

Do you think more/ less people should play the sport?

Is there something more you'd like to know about it? 


Let us know by heading over to our Facebook page where you can discuss your experiences with us and other listeners.

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