About that offside…

There are bad calls and then there are really bad calls

Yeah, we have to discuss this one.

Most of the time, when offside is called – or not called – incorrectly, it’s a pretty close-run thing. Understandable, really, considering the relative complexity of the offside law and the difficulty it imposes on assistant referees. On this occasion, however, the pooch has slunk off to a corner and is trying to forget what just happened.

There are two parts to the offside law (#11 in the Laws of the Game, and no, I don’t know why they are called laws and not rules). The first part is being in an offside position. The second is the actual commission of an offside offense. Both have changed fairly regularly over the years. Right now, though, an offside position is defined as being in the attacking half (the half-way line counts as being in the half) and closer to the opponent’s goal line than the second-last defender and the ball. Arms don’t count in this assessment, by the way, and arms are defined in the same way as for handballs, that is, everything below the armpit.

An offside offense occurs as a result of a player “becoming involved in active play” from an offside position when the ball is played by a team-mate. There are 7 different ways this can happen, but basically they boil down to receiving a pass or somehow interfering with the opponents’ ability to defend. The second part of that is fairly complicated and can often be very much subject to interpretation. In this case, of course, it doesn’t matter, since we are talking about the direct reception of a pass.

So, did Juan Agudelo commit an offside offense? Well, no, because he wasn’t even in an offside position. Not by a long shot. In the freeze frame above you can see that I’ve added a red line. Not that it was strictly necessary, as the lines in the turf are more than enough to show what’s needed. The line runs through the ball as Sadik Balarabe is passing it. Juan’s left foot is well behind that line. He is leaning forward slightly, but I doubt that his body or head would that much further forward. At worst, he is level with the ball. On that alone, he cannot be offside.

As far as the number of defenders is concerned, goalkeeper Jamahli Waite, #12 Daniel Griffin and Arturo Ordonez (facing towards Sadik) are all clearly closer to goal than Juan. Jelani Peters, who is covering Juan, may have his arm closer to goal, but that doesn’t count, remember, and Juan may be fractionally closer to goal. But 4 defenders putting him onside would be overkill on top of overkill anyway.

In the end, Juan was barely offside when he finally touched the ball. But that’s irrelevant, as the key moment is when the ball was played to him, not by him. He was behind the ball and covered by at least 3 defenders. You can’t get a lot more onside than that. An egregiously bad decision. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only bad call yesterday. Fortunately, none of the bad calls ultimately affected the final result.

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