Holger Nielsen: The James Naismith of Handball

Holger Nielsen, the James Naismith of Handball

Yesterday, Stefan Fatsis, arguably the biggest proponent of team handball in the U.S. “main stream” sports media, briefly discussed the origins of handball on the Slate, Hang up and Listen podcast:  Link (Towards the end, at the 1:02 minute mark)

The source of his “after ball” was an article, “The triple Olympic medalist who invented handball and the forerunner to CPR,” written in the Copenhagen Post: Link

As someone who follows the sport fairly closely, it’s probably the best English language article I’ve ever read on handball’s origin story.  To be clear, Holger Nielsen, isn’t quite the equivalent of James Naismith, as Naismith invented basketball practically out of nothing, but he clearly deserves a lot of credit for codifying the rules and promoting the game in the early 1900’s.

Maybe handball would still have become the sport it is today without Holger Nielsen.  And, maybe not.  Regardless, it would seem that he’s someone that should be a little bit better known in handball circles.  A spot in the Handball Hall of Fame (if one were to exist) and an award or trophy named after him.  Like the IHF World Player of the Year, could be the Holger Nielsen World Player of the Year the same way the top collegiate basketball player wins the Naismith Trophy.

As, I’ve learned over the years, handball does have a rich history.  One that should be celebrated more.