The offside rule in soccer, explained

As Ted Lasso said to Trent Crim when the British journalist asked the American coach if he could explain the offside rule in the second episode of the Apple TV show: “It’s not easy to explain, but you know it when you see it. ” Well, we’ll try to explain the offside rule better than Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s attempt to define obscenity, the phrase Lasso was referring to.

In fact, Law 11 of international soccer’s official rule book is quite simple:

But there are exceptions, footnotes, and, sometimes, you do not know when you see it.

And what is that? Not away?

Now it starts to get a little more complicated, because for a player to be offside, he must meet several conditions. For example, he had to be in his opponent’s half of the field, be in front of the ball when it passed to him, and attempt to play the ball.

Let’s see how these look on a soccer pitch.

If an offside offense occurs, the referee awards a free kick to the other team at the spot where the offside player was at the time the ball was played.

And there are several scenarios in which players cannot be called offside: a goal kick, a throw-in, a corner kick or if the player takes the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball.

A matter of inches

In most cases when an offside is called, a player’s entire body is offside. But if it is close, it can come down to body parts. What if an attacker’s arm is closer to the goal line than a defender’s foot? Is that an offside? Let’s see.


The parts of the body that can be off Are the same who can touch the ball, so everything but those Arms counts.

The parts of the body that can be off Are the same who can touch the ball, so everything but those Arms counts.

So back to our question: No, if the attacker’s hand or arm is closer to the goal than the defender’s foot, it is not offside. But sometimes it can be very hard to tell, even in slow motion replay.


In this case the line that marks the offside is The feet of the defender. at the moment of the pass, The hand of the attacker Is his only body part forward of the defender’s feet. So it is Not an offside.

In this case the line that marks the offside is The feet of the defender. at the moment of the pass, The hand of the attacker Is his only body part forward of the defender’s feet. So it is Not an offside.

In this case the line that marks the offside is The feet of the defender. at the moment of the pass, The hand of the attacker Is his only body part forward of the defender’s feet. So it is Not an offside.


But take a closer look at the next game:

Do you see how The attacker’s left foot Is ahead of the defender’s feet? It is not so easy to catch This offside. That’s why the referee has some help, from people and machines.

But take a closer look at the next game:

But take a closer look at the next game:

Do you see how The attacker’s left foot Is ahead of the defender’s feet? It is not so easy to catch This offside. That’s why the referee has some help, from people and machines.

The judges

The head referee is the one who moves around the field. Normally, it is impossible for him to tell if a player was in an offside position. So he needs help from two assistant referees who move along the sides of the field, one on each half. Assistant refs try to stay even with the strikers so they are in a good position to see if anyone is offside.

Assistant referees communicate with the head referee by moving their flags in different ways for a foul, a corner kick, a goal kick and, of course, an offside.


The assistant referee indicates an offside by moving the flag in two steps.

And then lowering it depending on where

The offside player is:

On the near side

of the field

in the middle

of the field

On the next page

of the field

The assistant referee indicates an offside by moving the flag in two steps.

And then lowering it depending on where

The offside player is:

On the near side

of the field

in the middle

of the field

On the other side

of the field

The assistant referee indicates an offside by moving the flag in two steps.

On the near side

of the field

in the middle

of the field

On the other side

of the field

But as we saw in the first game of the World Cup, sometimes the human eye cannot tell if a player is in an allowable or impermissible position. To help correct mistakes, FIFA, the international governing body of sports, introduced video assistant referee (VAR) in the 2018 World Cup, after trial runs in some lesser-known competitions. A VAR monitors video during each game from a control room in the stadium and alerts the on-field referee through his earpiece that a mistake may be made. The referee can then change a call, let the call stand or stop the game and look at the video replay. Offside, however, is reviewed only if there is a goal.

[What to know about video review at the World Cup]

In addition, FIFA announced this summer that this will be the first World Cup to use semi-automated offside technology as part of its video review system. The new technology uses 12 cameras mounted under the roof of the stadium to track the ball and each player 50 times per second to help the referees. The ball also features a sensor that sends data to the video operation room 500 times per second, and alerts the VAR if a player receives the ball in an offside position. The VAR will then manually review the call – with the help of an automatically generated offside line – before making a recommendation to the referee.

So don’t worry if you don’t catch every offside. Even in a big event like the World Cup – with referees, dozens of cameras and multiple reviews – there will still be doubt. Maybe rudeness really Is Easier to know when you see it.

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