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Friday, April 16, 2021

Off-side stories

They will continue to be told, even if FIFA changes the rule. What’s a game of football without some outrage?

By: Editorial |
Updated: March 10, 2021 8:56:44 am

In what would be the biggest alteration to the off-side law, FIFA has granted the nod for trialling the “Wenger Law” in the Chinese League later this year. According to the proposal, masterminded by legendary Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, a player should be judged offside only if any part of the body with which he can score a goal is past the last defender. At present, even if the little finger of a forward has crossed the line, it’s seen as a transgression. After the advent of video assistant referees and the subsequent microscopic scrutiny of the game, such instances have complicated a theoretically simple rule, leaving several managers grumpy and cynical about technology deciding ultra-marginal calls.

Historically, the linesman raising the flag to stop an over-eager forward sprinting towards the goal has divided the terraces and sparked heated debates. It’s an anti-climax that thwarts the game flow, temporarily denying the game its ultimate moment of celebration — the goal. This sudden intervention from the sidelines adds to football’s on-field drama. It also gets a lot of attention from players and coaches. Beating the off-side trap is a mandatory discussion at most match-eve team meetings. Reputed goal poachers have made millions because of this rule. Some decorated managers have based their tactics on laying the off-side trap. The legendary tiki taka exponent Pep Guardiola used this rule to protect his technically gifted, but less physically-endowed players, from strapping forwards.

According to Wenger, if FIFA changes the rule, the average off-sides in a game could come down from four to two. But will this mean that the “as old as the game” intrigue around the off-side rule will also end? Thankfully, it won’t. The defenders will continue to crib that laws are striker friendly and fans will continue to throw up their hands when the linesman raises the flag. It’s the outrage that makes the game more engaging and fun.

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