Things I Don't Get - Offside in Soccer

It's not that I don't get the rule (explained pretty well here), it's that I don't get the point of the rule. More importantly, I don't like it - here's why:
  • It prevents goals from being scored and soccer is a goal starved sport. Any soccer-heads reading are probably already rolling their eyes and uttering to themselves "American simpleton, it's the most popular sport in the world and doesn't need more goals." Well hold that thought chaps - I'll get to you in a bit.
  • It's a difficult rule to judge and requires perfect positioning by the referee and linesmen. Is it really a good idea to have old, bald guys with bad vision make difficult judgment calls that greatly impact the outcome of a game? As an old, bald guy with bad vision, let me answer that - NO. The call is frequently botched which leads to wonderful moments like these:

So why is the rule in place? I did some extensive research (i.e. multiple Google searches) to try to find out why. Below is what I found.

Reason My 2 cents
Offside rules were first written in 1848 at Trinity College in Cambridge, England. Since that time they've become part of the game. Jolly good.
The reason for the rules is/was to prevent offensive players from cherry picking and scoring easy goals. What's the problem with easy goals? The average total number of goals scored in a professional soccer game is about 2.5 (that seems high to me based on the games I've seen). Anything to up goals scored sounds good to me.
It gives the defending team a fighting chance against the striker (I'm not making that up). Really?! I'd say the defenders already have a fighting chance. Also don't forget about the guy guarding the net with the funky shirt and padded gloves.
It promotes good play because the offense needs to work together to bring the ball towards the net (instead of just punting it up towards the goal). I actually think this a very valid reason. However, there's got to be a better way. Perhaps a 2 line pass rule - i.e. a player behind the half way line can't pass it to a player beyond the top of the penalty area. This would still require team play but would be less restrictive and more straightforward to enforce. 

OK, now to all you soccer-heads that are cursing me for sticking my nose into your perfectly perfect game that is the most popular sport in the world just the way it is and doesn't need more goals. Here's what I have to say to you:
  1. Get over yourself. 
  2. Soccer is so popular because of its universal accessibility - all you need to play is some sort of ball. Kids all over the world grow up playing (some amazing pictures of kids playing soccer here). They inevitably fall in love with the sport and turn into avid fans as adults. Even though offside is not part the game kids grow up playing, as fans they ultimately come to accept (and even defend) the rule simply because it's part of their beloved product. 
  3. If soccer really doesn't need any more goals, how come an orgy practically breaks out whenever someone actually puts the ball in the back of the net (see below)?

I grew up in London, England playing and loving soccer. At school we would play on our concrete playground at every recess and again after school for hours. As a youth I enjoyed watching the local professional clubs and was crazy about the English national team (circa the Gary Lineker era). 25 years later, I still enjoy playing (when my body lets me) but I can't watch anymore - I want to, but the lack of goal scoring makes it too painful. I don't think the game needs a complete overhaul, just some tweaking to a 165 year old rule. More goals and less blown calls would make soccer more palatable to simpletons like myself and even more orgasmic for the soccer-heads. Isn't it that simple?


  1. First off, you like pro basketball. Enough said.

    Second, the game does not need more scoring. It is an Americanism that more is better. Learn to appreciate the game for the skill of the players for passing, trapping, defense, running off the ball, etc. For those of us who are fans, the reduced number of goals makes each one exciting and potentially game changing. It usually takes something special to get a goal.

    Third, the off-sides rule is critical to the game because it keeps the game compact. Without the rule, each team would just place a player or two in the opposing goal box and/or goal mouth, and you would end up with hockey-like brawls in front of the net, goalies would constantly be screened, etc. There would be much more open space on the field and it would not require as much skill to move the ball around.

    Fourth, soccer refs are far from old, bald guys. They are typically incredible fit as they have to run kilometers per game. Compared to your average NFL ref, they are Mr Universe. Plus, they are not all men:

    Finally, the off-sides calls are far more often correct than incorrect. As a fan of the NBA, you should know more than anyone the impact that the refs can have on a game. They have long been known to give preference to home teams and stars.

    In short, don't be a hater just because it's not your thing


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