I get it, you're an American. You've spent more time admiring the beauty of a perfect curve ball than the majestic arc of a top-corner free kick. For many of us raised on this side of the pond, soccer is foreign territory, the sport your macho uncle maybe likened to ballet.
Because you've kept a healthy distance from the game that's practically a religion in other parts of the world, you might get lost while watching the 2018 World Cup, which begins this Thursday. One particularly finicky rule that crops up periodically throughout games, sometimes resulting in disallowed goals and dashed triumph, is that of "offside."
Here, we'll explain how the offside rule works, so you're not as confused when the inevitable flag is raised and everyone in Russia starts screaming hysterically.
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What is offsides in soccer?
Simply explained, an offsides infraction is the result of an offensive player getting closer to the opposing team's goal line than both the ball and the last defender. Per the FIFA rulebook, a player is ruled offside "the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his teammates." This means every inch of a player's body, including their head, feet, toes, knees, fingers, etc., have to be in front of the last defender when the ball is passed to them. Otherwise, they'll be ruled offsides.
A player cannot be ruled offsides, however, if they're receiving the ball from a throw-in, a goal kick, or a corner kick.
Because it's hard to visualize, here's a helpful video with a few examples showcasing how it works.
But those are the good calls. Because we're living in an imperfect universe, referees will occasion miss a player who scores from an offside position, or disallow a goal that really deserved to stand. That's basically where soccer turns into a tear-jerking soap opera tempered by fans crying and screaming in the stands.
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