I was watching a professional game on television and saw an interesting sequence of calls and no calls. The play started with a offensive player who was very deep attempting a pass that is intercepted by a defender using his arm.The referee comes to award the free kick and give the card for the tactical foul when he sees the AR’s flag is up for offsides.There was a player in the offside position but the ball did not get to him. The card was given and the kick for offside was given.the defense got the free kick. My question is does the hand ball committed before involvement can be established by the offside player make the hand ball which happened first the foul that should be punished?Does the player in the offside position negate the hand ball foul when it can not be determined who was to receive the pass? I know the card is valid no matter what the answer to my question is?

USSF answer (April 12, 2010):
Many of us watched the incident and, based on what happened there and the guidance given in the Interpretation of the Laws of the Game (see below) and discussed in our answer of June 9, 2009, we believe that the decision, and the restart, should be for the deliberate handling.

In the context of Law 11 — Offside, the following definitions apply:
* “nearer to his opponents’ goal line” means that any part of a player’s head, body or feet is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent. The arms are not included in this definition
* “interfering with play” means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a teammate
* “interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent
* “gaining an advantage by being in that position” means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position

There was no interfering with play, no interfering with an opponent, or gaining an advantage by Ronaldo. There WAS deliberate handling by Pique.

Our answer of June 9, 2009:

ATTENTION!!! All referees please note that this answer involves a change in prior guidance due to the evolving interpretation of the offside offense by the International Football Association (the people who make the Laws).

Back in “the good old days,” pre-2008, it would have been simple: Punish the offside (interfering with play) and award the indirect free kick to the defender’s team, but caution the defender for unsporting behavior for the deliberate handling of the ball. This was based on the argument that the offside offense occurred first and, since it was going to be called because the pass was clearly “going to” the attacker, the referee’s decision to accept the AR’s flag for the offside stopped play and the handling therefore occurred during a stoppage.  The caution was for unsporting behavior since it was the defender’s intention to “interfere with attacking play.”

Now, however, in the modern, post-2008 era, we are unable to do this because the offside offense has become somewhat more complicated. Under current guidance for deciding if an attacker in an offside position has interfered with play, we look to whether or not the attacker makes contact with the ball (not counting the possibility that the attacker’s actions might be considered to have interfered with an opponent).  We must remember that, despite the intentions of the teammate and despite how clearly the ball is “going to” the attacker, that attacker could still decide not to interfere with play by avoiding all contact with the ball.  That “pass to the attacker” by itself does not constitute interfering with play.  Consequently, based solely on that “pass to the attacker,” the AR should not raise the flag for an offside violation, so we are left with the handling offense — direct free kick (or penalty kick if the handling occurred in the defender’s penalty area).  The referee should still caution the defender for the tactical foul.  If the AR does mistakenly raise the flag based solely on the pass, the referee should wave it down and proceed as indicated to deal with the handling.

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