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This has been troubling me for a while and I still can’t get my head around it to a reasonable level. It’s about Juventus 3-2 Roma from the other week. The penalties were controversial in and of themselves but those controversies were black and white (so to speak); either a foul was inside the box and they were correct decisions, or outside the box and the decisions were wrong. They both seem to have been outside, but by the width of a sheet of paper. Deeply unfortunate for Roma, but that’s football.

The ‘offside’ decision around Bonucci’s winner, though, has lingered a little longer in my mind. I present you with the official FIFA wording of the offside rule.

Here’s the description of an ‘offside position’;

Nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent.

That describes Arturo Vidal pretty well, I’d say, loitering in front of Skorupski (albeit without any apparent intentions).

Interfering with an opponent or Gaining advantage

This is debatable, though the still shots seem to prove that Vidal wasn’t obscuring Skorupski’s view as Bonucci hit the ball, which is covered, chronologically by the following part.

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At the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his teammates

And yet. To watch the goal again as often as I have makes it seem almost balletic, each player in their specific positions performing the same specific actions time and again. Vidal moves slowly in front of Skorupski, who adjusts slightly in order to see the ball. That happens (in slow motion, anyway) well before Bonucci strikes the ball. I would contest though, that the law in this case is an ass.

The arrow indicates when Bonucci struck the ball, and the three coloured boxes obviously relate to the actions and positions of both Vidal and Skorupski. Although Vidal isn’t doing it at the moment¹ that Bonucci strikes the ball, he has caused Skorupski to adjust from the position he had taken up. As such, because Vidal is not interfering with play at the moment Bonucci shoots, he is not offside. The fact that he is only not interfering because of the action of Skorupski is as naught. In fact, Skorupski would have been better not adjusting in order to see the ball.

Skorupski Moves

In that situation, Vidal would be adjusted to be offside. Taking that a little further, what would happen in the instance that Vidal had lost his footing slightly, and stumbled into Skorupski a couple of seconds before Bonucci shot? The motion would have long been over, but Skorupski would (again) be disadvantaged by Vidal’s actions. The goal would have to stand because Vidal wasn’t interfering at the moment the ball was struck by Bonucci, having moved the goalkeeper shortly before.

Skorupski Stays

In other words, I find this goal to be a dangerous precedent – of course I talk from the point of view of goalkeepers – in that outfield players can do whatever they want (within the law) to distract a goalkeeper, so long as they stop doing it as their team mate shoots at goal.

I’d welcome other opinions on this, if you have them – as I said, its something I’ve been working over in my head for a week, and I can’t reconcile the laws with any level of fairness to both parties.

¹I did a little research into the word ‘moment’ – apparently its first devisable mention is by our old friend the Venerable Bede; there 40 moments in a part, 15 parts in a minute, 10 minutes in a point, 4 points in an hour and the hour was the daylight hours divided by twelve – the striking of a ball takes, if anything, longer than a ‘moment’.

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