Many times, you’re watching your favorite team and one of the players score a goal (to your delight!) yet only to see the linesman’s flag raised and the goal disallowed because of the “offside rule.”

So what is it, really?


While offside is one of the most basic rules in football, it is also one of the most controversial that many team’s goals are disallowed because of it.

Here are some important things to know to better understand what offside in football really is.

Simply put, a player is in an offside position when he is nearer to the opponent’s goal line than the last defender of the opponent thus taking advantage of the play in that position.


Easy? Not quite.




It must be stressed that while players may be in an offside POSITION, it is not an immediate offense unless other conditions are met:


1. Active Play

First, the player who is in an offside position must be involved in an active play.

This means that either his teammate passed the ball to him WHILE he is in an offside position. Or, he runs to an offside position the moment his teammate kicks the ball and passed it to him.


2. Interfering in the play

Second, a player may be awarded an offside if he INTERFERES in the play whether intentional or not.

According to FIFA, “Interfering with play means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate.”


3. Particular situations

But even if a player does not interfere in the play, a referee may still call him out on offside if he deemed the player has an unfair advantage or has interfered with an opponent or the goalkeeper’s view.

However, a player did not commit offside when he is in his team’s own half of the field or he is level with the second to the last defender.

There is also no offside call when the ball came into play through a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner kick.

Also, a player cannot be called out for being offside if his arms are not at level with the opponent’s last line of defense but his whole body is. This quirk in the rule has something to do with a player’s hands not being able to take a shot at the goal hence, not considered an advantage.


4. What happens next?

When a team commits an offside, possession of the ball is reversed and the referee awards an indirect free kick to the opposing team. The kick must be made at the location of the infringement.

An indirect free kick means that should it go straight to the goal of the opposing team, it will be disallowed unless another player touches the ball before it went in.


Hopefully, this made the offside rule a lot easier to understand but don’t expect the linesmen and referee to always get the calls right. Not that they intend to sabotage the game. Most often than not, it’s the officials angles and line of sight that is causing them to either call an offside or miss it.