Language of OffsideOn this week’s main listening report we focus on some of the language that is used with one of the most controversial laws of the game: offside. You can listen to the report by clicking on the link below, while vocabulary support (in bold) appears at the foot of the report. There is also a worksheet (see right) for learners who wish to improve their English. If you have questions or comments, email us at:

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What is Offside?

Law 11 of football is all about offside which according to the FIFA website occurs when an attacking player is nearer to the opponent‘s goal line than the ball and the second last opponent. A player is not in an offside position however when he or she is level with or behind the second last opponent or indeed the last two opponents. A player cannot be offside in his or her own half of the pitch: they must be in the attacking half of the field. The person who decides whether a player is in an offside position or not is the assistant referee (formerly the linesman) who can see across the pitch. He (or she) raises his or her flag when a player is offside and the referee blows for an infringement and awards an indirect free kick.


That all seems simple enough. However there are exceptions to these laws. For instance, standing in an offside position does not always mean that a player is offside. A player has to be interfering with play which means that he or she is directly involved in the move taking place. One question to be asked is whether that player is gaining an advantage from this offside, FIFA defines interfering with play as ‘playing or touching the ball when it has been passed or touched by a team-mate’, that is, by standing in front of the keeper, preventing a defender from playing or scoring a goal from a position that is beyond the final defender. There are other exceptions when a player is not considered as being in an offside position. A player is not offside if he receives the ball directly from a goal kick, a throw-in or a corner kick.

The Offside Trap

Offside was originally introduced to the game to prevent players from standing near the goal waiting for a chance to score: to goal hang and its introduction was meant to open up the game, to spread the play though if a team decides to play the offside trap then space becomes squeezed and it is difficult for a team to find space to play in. FIFA claims that the law is as easy as one-two-three but the list of exceptions and the subtle differences in interpretation means that the offside law will remain one of the more controversial laws of the game.



  • To be offside: To be in an illegal position
  • To be caught offside: To be played into an illegal position by the opposing team
  • To spring the offside trap: To avoid the trap, to beat the offside trap
  • To beat the offside trap: To spring the offside trap, to avoid the trap
  • To play on the shoulder: A forward who likes to stand near the last defender and hopes that his or her speed will help beat the offside trap
  • blows for an infringement: The referee whistles to give a free kick
  • An indirect free kick: One that is awarded after an offside call (the kick has to be touched by another player before it can be shot at goal for instance).
  • To be active: When a player is deemed to be part of the play (is nearby for instance) and so can be offside
  • To be inactive: Even though the player looks offside he or she is not directly involved in the play so is not offside
  • To be interfering with play: To be directly involved in the play (so is probably offside)
  • goal hang: To simply wait in front of the goal for a chance to score (sign of a lazy player)

    Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

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