How to… understand the offside rule. Even if you’re a girl.

The below is a post I did on my own blog last year, but seemed worthy of resurrection after the recent ‘own goal’ scored by (now ex) Sky Sports presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys mouthing off about gals not ‘getting’ the beautiful game. Listen for yourself here.

Essentially, the idiotic pair thought their mics were off when they discussed the female linesman, commenting that ‘women don’t know the offside rule’ and that ‘somebody better get down there and explain offside to her.’

If I’m totally honest, I do find ladies on t’pitch a bit… ‘uncomfortable’. I definitely prefer to watch fellas parading in shorts. But that’s not to say females can’t be fully fledged footie fans – and Gray and Keys should have known better. Always cover your mic with your hand…

I pride myself on being a bona fide female footie fan.

By that, I don’t mean I avidly follow Arsenal Ladies FC (sorry ladies), but it isn’t all about hot-men-in-shorts. I understand the rules. I can shout, ‘the referee’s a wanker!’ with the best of ’em.

That’s not to say my favourite live footballing moment to date – STILL – isn’t the sight of Freddie Ljungberg sliding furiously towards me, legs spread, and then literally straddling the goal post at Crystal Palace Vs Arsenal in 2004. I was three rows from the front and it was an impressive view, to say the very least. I should have been miffed, as that was when Arsenal’s run at the top of the Premiership was surrendered after drawing 1-1. But Freddie made it better.

Anyway, I digress. My point is that I can, well, appreciate both types of tackle.

During the World Cup, I had to explain the Offside Rule to my girlfriends from the fashion world. This was my first attempt:

‘If the flag’s up, it’s Offside.’

Mean? Yes. Succinct? Certainly. But they wanted more. They wanted to truly understand Offside. To be able to spot it before the linesman and get all shouty like ‘proper’ football fans. To be honest, there’s a fair few referees who don’t even bloody understand it, but that’s another blog post. I had quite the task on my hands. So I used the only thing they could relate to: shopping…

The Offside rule explained for girls

  • You’re in the Selfridges accessories department during the sale – that’s the equivalent of the pitch – and you’re second in the queue for the till
  • Behind the shop assistant on the till is a Mulberry Alexa handbag. it’s the last one and you simply must have it – that’s the goal.
  • The ‘opposing’ female shopper in front of you has seen it too and is eyeing it up with lustful desire (the bitch).
  • Both of you have forgotten your purses.
  • It would be rather ill-mannered to push in front of the first woman if you had no money to pay for the bag, yes?
  • And still the shop assistant remains at the till waiting…
  • Your best friend is behind you, admiring shoes at the back of the store and sees your dilemma.
  • She kindly prepares to throw her credit card to you – that’s the ball.
  • If she does so, you can catch the card, then walk round the other shopper and snap up that bag.

Essentially, she could throw the purse ahead of the other shopper and (this is the very important bit), whilst it is in flight, you could nip around the other shopper, catch the card and purchase the Alexa. Result.

Just remember that until the purse has actually been thrown it would be bad form to be penniless and ahead of the other shopper.

If you start running towards the Alexa (the goal) and your pal throws the card (the ball) to you after you’ve managed to barge past the last two shoppers, you’re offside, my friend, and lose the bag.

He’s Offside, ref! But is he? You can’t be offside if you’re:

  • receiving the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner
  • in your own half of the pitch
  • level with the second last or last two opponents
  • level with or behind the ball
  • not actively involved in play

For any offside offence, the ref awards an indirect free-kick to the opposing team, to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred. Right? Right.

But anyway, if all of the above is too confusing, this handy diagram should make it clear for any girl:


– Natalie Wall

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