Several referees were discussing a general offside situation where a ball is headed backward by a defender. For example assume A1 sends a high diagonal ball towards the 18 yard line. D1 heads it only to have it go backwards to an attacker behind him in an offside position.

These refs believe that, because the act of heading the ball is a “deliberate act, not a deflection”, that it will automatically reset the offside situation, regardless of where the ball ends up. Thus the attacker who ends up with the ball behind the defender is not offside, regardless of whether it was the defender’s intent to play the ball backward and regardless of whether the header was controlled or if it simply skimmed of the very top of his head.

While I realize the final judgement is always itootr, I think that most of the time when a defender heads a ball backwards to an attacker, giving the attacker a good scoring opportunity, that this is not a controlled play but rather the equivalent of a mis-hit kick.

In that case, if my judgement is that the ball was mis-hit by the defender and hence accidentally went backwards, I don’t believe it would reset the offside situation.

Could you please clarify this situation. Thanks.

USSF answer (June 18, 2008):
Looking solely at your direct question, the fact that the act of heading the ball is “deliberate” has no bearing on the matter. If the opponent (D1) did not establish full control of the ball originally played by A1 toward his/her teammate, then the heading of the ball is a deflection or touch, not possession or control. Therefore, the attacker in the offside position to whom the ball was headed by D1 is offside if he becomes actively involved in play.

There are, however, other aspects to be considered. The defender could be deliberately heading the ball back (say, to his keeper so that the keeper could handle it) and not know that there was an attacker back there also. In such a case, it is a deliberate play and the attacker should not be punished for the defender’s error by being called for offside if he then gathers the ball and attacks the goal.

A defender might also deliberately play (possess and control) the ball by heading it but misdirect the ball so that it goes to this attacker … and again the attacker should not be called for offside.

Why should a defender gain the benefit of an offside call against this attacker simply because the defender didn’t play the ball accurately or well — he still played it. Deflections, ricochets, bounces, and the like would not of course constitute a play.

In closing, we need to remember that officials, whether referees or assistant referees, should not defend for the defenders.

Leave a Reply