Play of the Week 6: Offside tactic – Interfering with an Opponent


Image: The focus of Play of the Week 6. 

By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer

Play of the Week 6 features a tactic to deliberately position players in offside positions, behind the defensive wall, prior to a free-kick just outside the penalty area. The play is from Philadelphia Union versus Orlando City.

In this play, we can see the free-kick to Philadelphia is just outside Orlando’s penalty area. Referee Jair Marrufo uses good prescribed management techniques to set up this ceremonial free-kick.

He firstly paces the distance to ensure the defensive players are 10 yards from the ball, then warns them about the dangers of raising their arms and making contact with the ball, which would result in a PK.

He then speaks to four Union players who have deliberately positioned themselves in offside positions behind the wall. Marrufo warns them of the dangers of being offside when the ball is played and they will be penalized. This is all good practice when setting up a set piece of this nature.

Tranquillo Barnetta takes the free-kick and scores the winning goal with a fantastic strike into the roof of the net. The four Union players are still in offside positions when the ball is played by Barnetta.

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What does the law say?

“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”

We have to consider why are the players deliberately standing in offside positions. It is obviously a tactic to obstruct the goalkeeper’s line of vision. If those players manage to get into an onside position by the time the ball is played they are okay. But, in this play, the four players were still clearly offside at the moment the ball was played.

So, as the intention of the tactic and the players who are carrying this out is to obstruct the goalkeeper’s line of vision, then why disappoint them? They are offside and should be penalized accordingly!

At PRO we have actually addressed this tactic before in the game between New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC last season, when a Gilberto goal was allowed to stand.

There is a clear mandate from FIFA stating if a player is deliberately standing in an offside position as a tactic, he will be declared offside.

At PRO we have discussed this tactic at our camps on numerous occasions; it has been covered on our website. Our officials have been instructed that the referee should be proactive by clearly warning the offside players that they will be penalized if they remain in offside positions.

You can see that Marrufo does this, however AR Peter Balciunas does not raise his flag and the goal is incorrectly allowed.

The Union also attempted this tactic previously in the game at 77:10 but, on this occasion, their forwards managed to get into onside positions when the ball was played –  if they had scored, the goal would have perfectly legal.

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