“There was no offside rule in the past”, is a very common misconception among football fans. Many believe that the players of the past scored more due to the lack of an offside rule. Actually, the offside rule was always there since the later period of the 19th century. Rather, it was more stringent than the modern day game. The first time it was introduced was way back in the year 1863. It was brought in to make the game more tactical. There were many similarities the offside rule shared with hockey and rugby.
The FA was one of the first football associations to come into existence. Multiple set of rules followed around the world in that period.
FA Rule 6 covering off-side (based on the revised Cambridge 1863 version above) stated:
“When a player has kicked the ball any one of the same side who is nearer to the opponents’ goal-line is out of play and may not touch the ball himself nor in any way whatever prevent any other player from doing so until the ball has been played, but no player is out of play when the ball is kicked from behind the goal-line.”
Though late into the 60s, the rule was amended to three players in the front. A player was deemed offside if he had less than three opposition players ahead of him during the build up play. One of the most important feature to notice was that the game had no referees back then.
Post referee era:
An official person to call the fouls and free kicks was instated in 1891. Practically, rules like offside would be ineffective in the absence of a referee. The rule was later changed to two players in front of the player. Many teams flourished in that era due to their ball playing capabilities. Brazil bred players who could dribble their way through defences and score phenomenal goals. Very rarely would we see any counter attacks. That is why the South American teams had always done so good in those years.
The modern offside rule:
A series of amendments, often referred to as for the ‘Good of the Game’ were introduced. They were designed to help promote attacking football. They began with the offside law in 1990. The advantage was now given to the attacking team. If the attacker was in line with the penultimate defender, he was now onside.This gave boost to many new attacks and tactics like the “off side trap”.
Even today, despite the availability of technology, offside still remains a controversial affair. Countless derbies, finals, knock outs have been a result of a misjudged offside. The controversies have seen players fight, managers ambush and referees being pushed. At the same time, offside has also promoted. The likes of Barcelona break offside traps with ease, while players like Ramos exemplify offside traps. The inclusion of offsides has indeed given a creative edge of the game, let alone more entertainment. You can have a look at a few controversial ones here :
Lighting up the Bridge: Cricket at Chelsea’s home turf
I would never have left Manchester United, says David Beckham
“For me, this fight doesn’t exist”-Ronaldo on Messi
How Lucas Moura Made Sir Alex Ferguson Angry
Antoine Griezmann-From Hotline Bling to Superman?