Handball is one of the oldest of all games played with a ball. It is recorded as being played in Ireland in the pre-Christian era and is believed to have spread from there. Homer made reference to a Greek lady who was an expert ball player. The English played "Fives," the Spanish "Pelota" and the French "Palm Play," all similar to handball. The modern game is played on a court having 1, 3 or 4 walls, with 2, 3 or 4 players, or 2 teams of 2 participating. The 4-wall game is most popular today. The ball is struck with gloved hands and must strike the front wall of the court during each volley. Returns are made so as to make it difficult for the opponent to return the ball to the front wall. A game is won when one player or team scores 21 points. Points are only scored when serving.
In 1863 handball matches were reported in Victoria, BC, and Saint John, NB. World championships have been held on 4 occasions, and the world singles championship has twice been won by players representing Canada: Joey Maher of Toronto (1967) and Merv Deckert of Winnipeg (1984). In the 1987 Pan-Am Games Canada's first international medal (a silver) was won by the women's team, but a loss in the final cost Canada a berth in the 1988 Olympics. In Canada the sport is governed by the Canadian Handball Association.