Hanging Judge: When is offside not offside?

Eric Tinkler of Maritzburg United during the Telkom Knockout 2019 final match against Mamelodi Sundowns at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Picture: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images
Eric Tinkler of Maritzburg United during the Telkom Knockout 2019 final match against Mamelodi Sundowns at Moses Mabhida Stadium. Picture: Anesh Debiky/Gallo Images

Last week, in the wake of the Telkom Knockout final between Mamelodi Sundowns and Maritzburg United, I posted a comment on Facebook regarding a goal by Maritzburg United in the tail end of extra time, which was disallowed for offside.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think what I had written would generate the amount of controversy that it did. I wrote: “How is this not offside? Well done ref and assistant ref.”

There were interpretations and indeed some contradictions from all quarters, with some even purporting to be experts but still getting it wrong.

Offside – Law 11

“It is not an offence to be in an offside position.

“A player is in an offside position if:

  • Any part of the head, body or feet is in the opponent’s half (excluding the halfway line) and,
  • Any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponent’s goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.”

To refresh your memory on last Saturday’s dilemma, here’s what actually happened:

When is offside not offside?

There was a throw-in for Maritzburg in the dying minutes of the game. The thrower projected the ball into the penalty area, where opposing players challenged for the ball. It was flicked on to a Maritzburg player by a team-mate who headed it in to the net and thought he had scored but the assistant put his flag up and ruled it offside.

The floodgates of comments opened and a torrent of contributors becoming quite annoyed with each other ensued.

They say ignorance is bliss and that a little knowledge is dangerous ... that’s certainly true in this situation.

So let’s clear this issue up here and now.

Firstly, the assistant referee was 100% correct in disallowing the goal.

A player cannot be offside from a throw-in, goal kick or corner kick in their own half of the field of play, or from a pass back to their own keeper.

When the throw-in was taken, the scorer was onside. The problem arose when the ball was flicked to the eventual scorer who, during the flight of the ball from the throw-in, became offside from the flick-on. The assistant referee was correct in disallowing his goal.

If the ball had not been flicked on and had gone straight to the scorer, the goal would have been allowed.

I know it was heartbreaking for the scorer, his team and the coaching staff, but again I say that it was the correct decision.

What amazed and upset me was the fact that Maritzburg United coach Eric Tinkler was incandescent with rage and started to appeal to the fourth official.

He could clearly be seen, arms outstretched, arguing with the fourth official about disallowed the goal.

But how could he have seen from the halfway line whether a player was onside or offside?

Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane didn’t help matters either, particularly after the game when he said they benefited from the situation.

What does that even mean? No one should benefit or not benefit from a referee’s decision. The guys do the best they can to officiate a game according to the laws of the game.

My main problem is that some managers and coaches have no idea about the laws of the game. I’ll bet if you ask them they don’t even know how many laws there are, let alone the finer points, yet they’re quite prepared to shout their mouths off about things they know nothing about.

Do I sound angry? Damn right I am.

Leave the match officials alone to do their job and concentrate on your own job. I know referees will make mistakes, but that is why we now have the video assistant referee and that’s a debate for another day.

Please feel free to make comments or ask questions.

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