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Learn About Offsides

"So you think you know what 'OFFSIDE' is, eh?"


In the IFAB Laws of the Game, Law 11 "Offside" continues to be a challenging concept to learn.  This is partially perhaps because each of us may have learned it at a different time, so the specifics of the Law were different.  Or, we each have may learned only some aspects of the Law and haven't considered other aspects.   

Law 11 is a short, 3 page Law in the IFAB Laws of the Game, available at  In the 2017/18 version, Law 11 is from page 93-95.

Some simple summary statements:

1) Only an attacking player involved in active play can be "offside." 

2) Attacking players must be in an "offside position" before they can be penalized for an offside offense. 

3) Is the attacker closer to their attacking goal line than either the second-to- last defender or THE BALL?  If so, they are in an offside position.   Any part of the head, body, or feet of a player are considered when judging whether an attacker is in an offside position.  Arms are not considered when judging offside position (not even the goalkeeper's arms).

4) An attacking player cannot be in an offside position if they are in their own half of the field, or on the halfway line, at the moment their teammate touches the ball.  

5) An attacking player cannot be penalized for the offside offense if they receive the ball directly from a goal kick, corner kick, or throw-in, even though they may be in an offside position.  

6) If a defender makes a deliberate save--"when a defender stops a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands (unless it is the goalkeeper within the penalty area)"--any attacker in an offside position is still offside if that attacker plays the rebounding ball or interferes with an opponent.

7) If a defender purposefully plays the ball, including jumping and heading it or passing it in a controlled manner, then an attacking player in an offside position may now play the ball without being penalized with an offside offense.       

Of course, you should read Law 11 for the exact details.  However, broadly speaking, if an attacker is in an offside position, they commit an offside offense when they

  • interfere with play by touching the ball
  • interfere with an opponent (four different ways they can do this--see the Law)
  • gain advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when the ball rebounds off the goal or has been deliberate saved by an opponent.

Here are eight introductory examples to consider.  Use the GHFYSA Contact Us form to submit your answers to these quiz questions if you want to take the quiz.




These examples are just the starting point for learning offside.  We haven't included the many ways that the attacker in an offside position might interfere with an opponent.  If there's interest, we'll post more scenarios.  

The first challenge, from the point of view of the officials, is staying even with the second-to-last defender (or the ball).

The second challenge is, at each touch by the attacker, the referee(s) must take a mental snapshot of any attacking players who are in offside positions. 

Then the officials assimilate other important information as they apply a wait-and-see approach to raising the flag--is the ball moving over the goal line? or is the ball controlled by a defender? or is another attacker (who isn't in an offside position) rushing onto the ball to play it rather than the attacker in the offside position? 

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