The U.S. soccer team brought the victory drama against Algeria with a nail-biting late goal by instant-superstar Landon Donovan. What made the World Cup match even more epic was the intense hardship the U.S. has suffered from referees and the interpretation of Law 11 of the official soccer Rules of the Game: the offside rule.
So far, referees have disqualified a goal that would have allowed the U.S. to win a match, as well another goal in the game against Algeria. In both cases, calls involving offsides were the reason. There’s no replay in soccer, but both penalties have drawn outcries from fans who say that in hindsight, the rulings were ambiguous (to say the least.)
What is offsides? Basically a player can’t just hang out by the opposing team’s goal and wait for the ball to appear, then overpower the goalie. Three factors define the offside position:
Here’s the part that causes problems. Offside position is fine until it turns into an offside offence, which happens when a player’s position (in offsides) affects gameplay. If for example a player kicks the ball to a player in offside position, then and only then can the situation become an offside offence. How do referees define when an offside position becomes an offside offense? Well, now isn’t that a good question.
Players can purposefully create an offside situation to sabotage a potential goal, among other messy tactics. The bottom line: the ball moves so fast that referees make calls that often make players, and fans, quite emotional.
The word offside is simply an abbreviation of the notion of a player being “off his side” of the field. Throughout the history of the game, authorities have made the rule more or less strict, sometimes allowing players to be stationed near the goals for “kick-throughs” that took advantage of a goalie left alone.
Now, do you think that FIFA (Federation of International Football Associations), the world soccer authority, should allow instant replays? Add your thoughts in a comment, and expect some strong opinions.