Offside Issue

Jose, an adult amateur fan, asks:

If there are two defenders (one of whom is the goalkeeper) inside the goal area and an attacker scores with no other defending player in front of the attacker, is that a valid goal or is the attacker offside?

Answer (see “Apology” special note posted July 5)

We have no idea.  Your question is unclear as to what is meant by “no other defending player in front of the attacker.”  Do you mean that there were no defenders at all (including either of the two defenders, one of whom is the goalkeeper) in front of the attacker?  Or do you mean the “two defenders … inside the goal area” may or may not be in front of the attacker but there were no other defenders in front of the attacker?  Also a problem is that we don’t know where this attacker was when the attacker’s teammate touched/played the ball.  Even if the space in front of the attacker was totally devoid of all defenders at the time the attacker shot the ball into the goal, the attacker would not be in an offside position and thus able to commit an offside offense if the attacker was somewhere else (behind two or more defenders) when the attacker’s teammate last touched/played the ball.

It sounds like we are being picky but the offside position and the offside offense are chock full of picky issues and we have to be very exact as to where players were at the moment a play began rather than where the play ended.  Offside position is established at a specific moment of time but an offside offense can occur anytime thereafter until the play which started it all is over.