Sunday 22 April 2012

El Clásico April 2012 : Classic Offside Tragically Missed

The following incident occurred during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Saturday 21 April 2012. The match finished 1—2.

In the 16' with the score level at 0—0, Real Madrid (white) take a corner kick. The ball is headed forward by Real Madrid's Pepe and saved by Barcelona keeper Victor Valdés. The loose ball is not controlled by Barca defender Carles Puyol (blue/purple) and Real Madrid's Sami Khedira sneaks in to jab home. Here are the freeze frames:

 As Pepe (white #3) heads the ball towards the goal, two of his team-mates (white) are standing in offside positions

Again, it is interesting how commentators, pundits, analysts and members of the media make no mention of this offside. For examples of match reports from the English-speaking world, see The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and BBC Sport.

Now look at the frantic action of the AR during this incident. Here are the freeze frames:
From behind the corner flag, the AR is frantically rushing up the touch line to get in line with the second-last defender as soon as Real Madrid's Di Maria takes the corner

IMHO, the AR will be beside himself for having missed this offside. This is because he has demonstrated his care, commitment and effort in attempting to perform his duties well. He is like a human yo-yo, first rushing up the touch line and then instantly rushing down the touch line.

Instead of criticizing, we should ask how to better approach and solve this situation so that all ARs can be better prepared in future when these incidents will inevitably occur again.

First, the guidelines for the standard position of the AR at corner kicks should be updated and improved. FIFA's interpretation is for the AR to stand behind the corner flag in line with the goal line. The diagram used to illustrate the AR's position shows defenders standing on the goal line. There is no diagram to show the AR's position when the defenders are not standing in line with the goal line.

Second, since players cannot be offside directly from a corner kick, the technical reason why the AR is positioned in line with the goal line is ... to be in line with the ball. It is mainly to be in an optimal position to identify whether the whole of the ball has crossed the goal line, and therefore to signal for a goal kick, goal or corner kick.

Third, contrast this with FIFA's interpretation for the AR's position at free kicks. Here the AR must be in line with the second-last defender to check the offside line, which is a priority.

Therefore, let's consider the reason why the AR during yesterday's el clásico positioned himself behind the corner flag during the taking of a corner kick. It was not because he was following the second-last defender. It was not because he could be best positioned to decide whether the corner kick would bend out of and then back into the FOP (since Di Maria is left-footed and therefore was putting in an in-swinging ball). It was probably because the guidelines imply that the AR would be in the best place to see whether the whole of the ball crosses the goal line between the posts and under the crossbar.

So in effect, the AR was frantically rushing to position himself up and then down the touch line to follow the in-swinging flight of the ball, which is quite absurd. He was also simultaneously rushing to position himself with the second-last defender. So what was his state of mind?

The AR was probably feeling rushed, stressed, wide-eyed, and highly-alert. All of which meant nothing (unfortunately) because the outcome was a missed offside.

For discussion
1) we know that attackers cannot be called offside direct from a corner kick; and
2) if defenders choose not to stand on their goal lines; and
3) if the corner-taker is putting in an in-swinger;
then would it not be better for the AR, having checked that the ball is properly placed inside the corner arc, to position himself in line with the second defender during the taking of corner kicks (which is just the same as the recommended position of ARs at free kicks)?

If match officials are familiar with soccer tactics, then they will know that the aim of the typical corner kick is to place the ball on the edge of the goal area (i.e. 6 yards out) where team-mates have a good opportunity to attack the goal. And if it is an in-swinger, then the AR can also naturally follow the flight of the ball by moving down the touch line toward the corner flag, as if it were a direct shot on goal.

This is just a suggestion which may help minimize such incorrect offside decisions where the AR has to frantically rush up the touchline to keep in line with the second-last defender (and/or the flight of the ball). Would it be better if the starting position of the AR was already in line with the second-last defender at in-swinging corner kicks, with the option of following the flight of the ball as it moves towards the goal?


  1. You are wrong, it was a correct call. The foot of the no 21 (Barca) was level, you were too late with your screen. Pls correct it, there was a perfect sideline replay showing that in minute 22 or something like that

  2. I agree wit Niclas, I watched the match yesterday and I noticed that it was not offside, great call for Ibanez.

  3. Regardless of what was the correct decision, the introduction of goal line technology would assist ARs in this respect, allowing him/her to concentrate on spotting penal offences on/off the ball and ensuring full concentration on offside offences when play is concentrated near/on goal line.

  4. regardless of accuracy based on timing.... interesting suggestion. I wonder though, at lower levels of play, how many AR's would understand the tactical difference between an inswinging or outswinging corner or how the ball placement and approach will signal which it will be.

  5. the offside call is tragically correct. you need to change this accusation

  6. All the explanations I've had in refereeing soccer about offside position state that decision is made based on the position of the body when the ball is last touched by his teammate. If the body is closer to the goal than the second to last defender, then the player is in an offside position. In this case the attacking player's body is closer to the goal line than is the second to last defender. His foot may be even of the second to last defender's foot, but his whole body is closer to the goal line than is the body of the second to last defender. So offside.

  7. Hong Kong Ref good discussion. Your site is a good one for referees... When the AR is at the corner for a corner kick... he's watching for ball to go out over goal line.. but also he's aware that offensive players behind the ball can't be offside.. so the AR stays with the ball or 2nd last defender whatever is closer to goal line. For the AR this is a very difficult situation because of the fluidity of offensive and defensive players and the ball. The AR needs incredible attention and focus!