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In soccer, is the off-side law still valid and realistic?


From my personal point of view and my 50 years of experience on a soccer field, I can say NO!

In all sports, the Federations try every year to actualize the laws and make them more realistic, taking into consideration the advancements of the athleteís performances. All of you can name dozens of adjustments in basketball and football. Only soccer is crystallized in the Ďterrorí of changing even the smallest and most insignificant particular.

I remember when, a long time ago, FINALLY, it was forbidden for the keeper to pick up the ball with the hands, if a team mate passed it back to him. It took years of shameful exhibitions, in which we saw dozen of minutes wasted that way, every game, before FIFA finally said STOP!

And what an unbelievable improvement that was, in making the game much more correct and enjoyable, in particular for the team that was loosing at the time.

Please consider these facts:

-The speed of the players, and consequently the game, has been enormously increased in the last few decades.
-It is almost impossible for the Assistant Referee to see the player who passes the ball and the player who will receive it, at the same time, and judge his or her off-side position. In the fraction of a second that he turns his glance to the receiving player, he or she could be in off-side, but this doesnít mean that they were at the moment in which the pass was made.
-The development of the off-side trap, unfortunately, provokes the fact that the opponent players find themselves in off-side, even if they donít wanted to be there. I donít accept the principle that a player can be forced to break a sport law, by acting consequently.
-If both teams do this, 20 players are constricted to playing on a strip 40/50 yards wide, creating such a crowded area in the middle of the field, that it makes it impossible to have more than 2 or 3 consecutive passes, without loosing the ball, generating a ping-pong, that is very often boring.
-An enormous number of enthusiastic actions are stopped by the referees, with players in dubious positions or, even worse, not stopped and consequently irregular goals are scored creating an unwanted level of tension in the stadiums.
-In trying to make the law more effective and comprehensible, FIFA complicated it further, so the effectiveness of the law is left more to the refereeís interpretation, creating more dubious situations.

I believe it is time to actualize the off-side law, which is a great law that must forbid players to stay always in front of the opponent keeper.
My proposal, will give more space to the players to do their Ďmagicí, without going in off-side and without altering the spirit of the law and the game of soccer.

So, what is the proposal?

Try to visualize the field. Now imagine prolonging the horizontal lines of the 2 penalty areas up to the side lines. Do you see it? Good! These 2 lines will become the OFF-SIDE LINES.



-In the space between the 2 off-side lines, THERE IS NO OFF-SIDE.
No attacking player can pass the off-side line, until the ball crosses the line, carried by a player (from both teams) or sent across.
-Only when the ball has crossed the off-side line (entirely, like the rule that governs the goal lines or the side lines), carried or sent across, can the attacking players cross the off-side line and enter the area.
-If they enter the area before the ball, they are in off-side. The defending team has an indirect free kick and it will be taken, positioning the ball on the line, where ever the defending team decides.
-When the ball has crossed the off-side line, there is no more off-side and the attacking players can position themselves anywhere in the area.
-This is applied for a throw-in, too. If the throw-in is outside the off-side line, the players can cross the line only when the ball has crossed it. If the throw-in is already across the line, the attacking players can position themselves and receive the ball, anywhere.
-On direct free kicks, even if the defenders set the wall inside the penalty area, no players from the attacking team can cross the off-side line and enter the area, until the ball crosses the line. (Finally we wonít see anymore opponent players battling with the defenders on the wall).
-On indirect free kicks, in the penalty area, the attacking players can stay in the penalty area, even behind the wall, but canít enter the keeper area, until the ball is kicked. (This will avoid situations in which opponent players, mark the keeper during the execution of the indirect free kicks.)
-When, for any reason, the ball leaves the area and goes back to the off-side FREE ZONE, the play continue as the ball hasnít crossed the off-side line previously. If the attacking team wins the ball, the attackers canít receive the ball by staying in the area across the off-side line. If the ball, in being carried or sent forward, crosses the off-side line, the attackers who are still across the off-side line, are considered in off-side and the action ends with an indirect free kick for the defending team.

What is the advantage of this?

-The space in which the players are allowed to move without going in off-side, in particular in counter-attacks, is DOUBLED.
-For the referees the judgment is enormously facilitated because they have to guard a line, a real one not an opinioned one, and they donít have to run back and forth in following athletes that are clearly faster than they are.
-The show would be much more spectacular.
-The chance to score would be greatly increased.
-The episodes that create unwanted tension and discussions, would be almost eliminated.
-During the execution of direct and indirect free kicks, the situations would be much less chaotic, without players who are battling for a position around the wall.
-At the youth level, if only one referee is there, his ability to judge would be much easier because he would have a real line on the ground to help him and not sensations from an impossible prospective.

This is clearly only an idea and is perfectible but, I think, it is more in tune with the actual reality of a modern soccer game.

In ice hokey, there are lines that govern and indicate the off-side. If it works with a game that is so fast and has continuous back and forth, I think that it could work for soccer too.

I would really like it if referees, coaches, players, managers and soccer lovers in general, would say what they think about this idea by writing to gianni@coachgianni.com

It would be very interesting to test this idea in a soccer game, with two teams of a very high level, to see how it works during a tough game.

Are there two teams, at a high level, that like to try?

Hope so.


Coach Gianni
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Posted on 10 May 2006 by coachgianni
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