The Assistant Referee Is an important and integral part of the beautiful game. Their job is to assist the referee in managing the game wherever and whenever possible. However, there is one job that I would say is 99.9% that of the AR – Law 11: Offside!
In order to do the job as an AR and catch those super close offsides, complete concentration is absolutely paramount. To become one of the elite FIFA AR’s, you have to train yourself to stay completely focused on the match amidst all the screaming, loud, noisy, chanting fans that could sometimes be only a few metres away. Although the play moves up and down the pith and you need to keep an eye on the play, your head needs to be on a swivel and act bobble like in order to stay inline and focused on the second last defender at all times (or with the ball when the situation permits). Even the tiniest of distraction could lead to huge gaps in mental ability and focus, which in turn leads to poor concentration. If even for a split second, an entire game can be turned around on just one incorrect, and inexcusable bad offside decision one way or another.
Case in point…
Champions League – Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund (93:00)
Swedish Assistant Referee Mathias Klasenius raised his flag to signal an offside. At first glance, everything looks kosher and his calls seems to be correct. However, look closely – there are 3 things wrong with this scenario. (Hint: 2 things have nothing to do with Law 11)
Let’s break this down, step by step…
Law 11 of the LOTG states:
“A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball
touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee,
involved in active play by:
• interfering with play or
• interfering with an opponent or
• gaining an advantage by being in that position” (LOTG, pp. 35)
Each of these “Active Play” instances is defined in the Interpretations and Guidelines as follows (pp. 108):
- “interfering with play” means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate
- “interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or challenging an opponent for the ball
- “gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball
i. that rebounds or is deflected to him off the goalpost, crossbar or an
opponent having been in an offside position
ii. that rebounds, is deflected or is played to him from a deliberate save
by an opponent having been in an offside position
Of these 3 instances, the one that applies in the above scenario is the first point, “interfering with play” because the ball is deliberately kicked to Ozil, by his team-mate from a direct free kick. Therefore, we have met one part of the criteria for an offside to be penalized. However, there is one critical aspect of the offside law that also needs to be considered: The position of the player. In order to be penalized for offside, the player has to be both involved in active play, AND also needs to be in an offside position. Law 11 describes an offside position as
“A player is in an offside position if:
• he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the
A player is not in an offside position if:
• he is in his own half of the fi eld of play or
• he is level with the second-last opponent or
• he is level with the last two opponents” (LOTG, pp. 35)
The first part of this is the key – nearer to his opponents’ goal line than BOTH the BALL and the second-last opponent. The second part to that, in my opinion, is missing a line and should also read “he is level with the ball” however, that is technically covered in the first part of the law and I digress. If we look closely at the above GIF we will notice that, using the top of the goal area as a reference point, Ozil is in fact ahead of the second last opponent, he is clearly in the opponents’ half of the field however, he is standing in line with the ball (the ball is actually ever so slightly ahead of his right foot) and therefore, hot in an offside position. The Assistant Referee, in my humble opinion, was incorrect to flag this offside. Yes he was concentrating on the second last opponent however, he was not concentrating hard enough to take into consideration of the position of the ball with respect to Ozil position on the field of play. I’m not pointing any fingers because I’m sure that this has happened to me in the past however, this is definitely a great learning tool and has made me more aware of situations like this. I know I’ll definitely be paying more attention to the position of the ball in these sorts of situations and make sure that I get the call right!
What do you think? Leave your comments below.
The Third Blind Mouse
PS. The other 2 things wrong in that clip: 1) The AR initially has the flag in the wrong hand – it is supposed to be in his right hand before the call is made; and 2) look at the socks – the white tape is covering the blue stripe – Law 3 says tape is to be the same colour as the part of the sock which it covers! :p