By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer
In Play of the Week 6, we focus on offside and, in particular, interfering with an opponent.
The Law states that ‘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.
There is also a clarification from FIFA to consider:
A player in an offside position is deemed to be ‘challenging an opponent for the ball’ if he makes a clear action within playing distance which impacts the ability of the opponent to play the ball.
‘Challenging an opponent for the ball’ has no specific distance. Therefore, the referee must interpret the playing distance and its impact correctly.
So, according to Law, there are two considerations – quite simply, line of vision or challenging.
In the MLS game between Houston Dynamo and Montreal Impact, following a great advantage played by the referee Fotis Bazakos, the ball is played forward by Dynamo’s Ricardo Clark, and team-mate Giles Barnes is in an offside position.
But, as he is wide of the goal and of Impact’s goalkeeper Evan Bush, he cannot be construed as obstructing his line of vision.
The other consideration is, is he preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by challenging an opponent for the ball? Barnes, realizing he is in an offside position, simply does not attempt to play the ball.
This allows Clark to chase his own through ball and score a great goal, despite being closely pursued by Impact’s Eric Alexander.
What referee Bazakos and AR Peter Manikowski have to decide is whether Barnes interferes with the movements of Alexander, which would then have to be interpreted as ‘challenging an opponent for the ball’.
In cases like this it is vitally important that the referee has dialogue with the AR as they can decide together – they both have separate information they can disclose to each other.
The AR will know the offside offense but not necessarily whether the player in the offside position has committed an offense by ‘clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision’ or by ‘challenging an opponent for the ball’.
In this particular play, by using the communication device, Manikowski informs Bazakos that Barnes is in an offside position then, from their respective angles, they agree that Barnes did not interfere with Alexander and therefore allowed the goal.
If you look at the various replays from different angles – a luxury which is not afforded to the match officials – there is a point where Barnes is very close to Alexander, and the officials had to ascertain whether this affected or interfered with his progress, albeit slightly, or impacted his ability to play the ball, as per the FIFA interpretation.
They agreed it did not and PRO believes that this is the correct decision. If you look at the clip below from the USA versus Colombia game, that we use as an example in these types of situations, this is very similar. It is important that our officials interpret Law in a consistent manner.
But, the most important aspect we can learn from this play is that referees and assistants must have dialogue to arrive at the correct decision. This is a great example of effective communication and teamwork.