In football; after an attack on goal, the goalkeeper gains possession. An attacking player quietly remains behind the goalkeeper in hopes to be forgotten. The goalkeeper drops the ball to feet in order to play (not having noticed the attacker loitering behind). The attacker springs to action and steals the ball and knocks home a goal. The player is not considered offside. What rule allows this play to continue? It seems counter to the offside rule or could be labeled as trickery?

Further, in a recent match, a player 10 yards offside received a glancing ball off a defender's attempted clearance header and hit one home. What is the correct ruling? Thanks.

  • I feel like this would be better split into two questions as there are two very different parts of the same Law at play here. Sep 30, 2014 at 8:57
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    I'm 100% sure this happened in the English Premier League, and I think it was either Robbie Keane or Ian Wright, but can't find a video. This is fairly similar: www.youtube.com/watch?v=x73SRjWdrIA
    – ediblecode
    Oct 2, 2014 at 14:28
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    Found it: youtube.com/watch?v=3Y0kpT_DD6I
    – ediblecode
    Oct 2, 2014 at 14:34

2 Answers 2


You are only offside if your teammate plays you the ball while you are in an offside position. If an opposing player plays you the ball (or you steal it from them), while you are in an offside position, you are considered to be onside.

In the example you mention, I believe the player would be considered to be offside, as the ball is played to him, even if it glances off his opponent. This would be considered to be "gaining an advantage" under Law 11 of the Laws of the Game. Though this is very much up to the discretion of the referee as "gaining an advantage" is subjective as is whether or not the defender's contact is sufficient to negate the possibility of offside. If the referee judges that the defender intercepted the pass, but turned it over, then the player is free and clear.

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    take in mind, that even he is in off-side, once the ball is deliverated touched back by a defender, his position is not taking into account. So this is an interpretation by the referee (did the defender shot the ball on porpuose of was just a rebound or a miss cleared).
    – gbianchi
    Sep 29, 2014 at 18:00
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    Almost downvoted due to "off sides". It seems to be a really common corruption of "offside" in the US. I wonder where it started ... Sep 30, 2014 at 8:58
  • The new interpretation (since a couple of years back) of the offside rule deems a defender's attempted clearance as cancelling the offside. So the second part of the answer above is not correct.
    – Ola Ström
    Apr 5, 2019 at 23:43

Wax Eagle's answer is correct in the first instance.

In the second instance, "gaining an advantage" isn't really subjective at all. What it means is the following on page 108 of the 2014/15 FIFA Laws of The Game:

“gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball

i. that rebounds or is deflected to him off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent having been in an offside position

ii. that rebounds, is deflected or is played to him from a deliberate save by an opponent having been in an offside position

A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save), is not considered to have gained an advantage.

If the defender played the ball deliberately, and it wasn't a save - there is no offence here. If the ball deflected off the defender or the defender was making a save, the offside offence should be called.

In summary (and applicable to both questions), offside is reset once

  • the ball goes out of play,
  • it is touched again by a teammate (which can in itself produce a whole new set of teammates unable to play the ball due to having been in an offside position when it was touched), or
  • it is deliberately played (except for a save) by an opponent.
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    +1 for a great answer. I'd like to add though, that in the first situation (the same applies for the second, even though it may not be as clear) the attacker is not offside because the situation in which he was has passed. You're not offside if you don't interfere, and when the goalkeeper has the ball under control - the situation is over.
    – Qvist
    Sep 30, 2014 at 15:58
  • I know this question is years old but I would like to ask for some precision please. I'm a ref, today an attacker was sent a long ball ahead of him. In the race to get the ball before it hit the ground, the attacker was overtaken by the defender who attempted a desperate overhead kick, which hit the attacker in the chest who regained control of the ball. I called off side, but he argued that the ball had been sent to him by the defender. I've come here to ask whether this is what is meant by "a save". I'm guessing a slide tackle in attempt to concede a throw-in also fits in, right ?
    – James Well
    Oct 23, 2017 at 22:28
  • @JamesWell - I think this is substantial enough for a new question. If you add this as a new question, I'll be happy to answer it. Oct 25, 2017 at 0:26
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    Thanks ! It's done, it's here : sports.stackexchange.com/q/17195/13128
    – James Well
    Oct 26, 2017 at 10:33

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