Offside – Law 11

Question: I was watching a U-15 game.  A defender, let’s call them the blue team, played a ball forward to his attacker teammate that is in an off-side position on the attacking side of the midfield line.  However, the ball is headed with a grazing touch by the red team and then lands to the blue player that is in an off-side position.  The AR called it off-sides.  Is this considered to be offside?

As I watched the Spain and France Nations League final, the Spanish player attempted to play a ball and never made contact with the ball, the French player in an off-side position got to the ball and scored the winning goal.  Is this not the same thing?

~ Armando

Answer: Armando, thanks for the question.  Offside seems to give us an endless source of discussion.  We have all spent time with other referees explaining scenarios and then debating if a player is guilty of an offside offense or not. Law 11 tells us:

A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play by playing or touching a ball passed or touched by
    a team-mate or
    • interfering with an opponent by:
    • 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 or
  • clearly attempting to play a ball which is close when this action impacts
    on an opponent or
    • making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an
    opponent to play the ball or
    • gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent
    when it has:
    • rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or
    an opponent
    • been deliberately saved by any opponent


In the 15U match the Blue attacking player is in an offside position at the time that the team-mate plays the ball.  This is a potential offside situation but we still need active involvement in play for it to be an offside offense.  The ball is headed by a player on the Red team before it reaches the Blue attacker.  The defender’s action of heading the ball counts as a deliberate play so the Blue attacker receives the ball from an opponent and not a team-mate.  Law 11 also states:

A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who
deliberately plays the ball, including by deliberate handball, is not considered

to have gained an advantage, unless it was a deliberate save by any opponent.


The assistant referee may have not have seen the “grazing touch” or may have thought that played poorly does not count and raised the flag incorrectly.  The Blue player is not guilty of offside in this scenario.

In the Nations League final, VAR ruled that Spanish defender Eric Garcia did make contact with the ball which made it a deliberate play. Mbappe received the ball from an opponent and not a team-mate and thus not offside.