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Mbappe's goal proves VAR has failed to fix the offside rule

Originally designed in response to the offside trap perfected by Rinus Michels, the offside rule is now unfathomable, as displayed by Kylian Mbappé's goal.

Mbappe's goal proves VAR has failed to fix the offside rule
Jurij KodrunGetty Images

The current problems with the offside law began well before the introduction of VAR. The root of the issue goes back to when coaches would organize their defences to swiftly move up in unison to cause an attacking player to be caught offside without realizing: the offside trap. Argentinean side Estudiantes de la Plata were experts at it in the 1970s. In Europe, Anderlecht manager Pierre Sinibaldi also deployed the offside trap with notable success. Rinus Michels, the architect of total football, later became the master of this tactic. Little by little it caught on, famously in the case of the Arsenal sides of the 1990s. It grew to be considered a perfidious way of taking advantage of the offside rules, which led to the recommendation to linesman not to raise their flags in case of doubt and subsequently the decision that if an attacking player is in line with the last defender then he is not offside.

So far, so good… but the snowball effect was unstoppable and the cure proved to be worse than the illness. It was decided a player cannot be offside until he receives the ball. An unfathomable algorithm was designed, based on position, influence, and position plus influence, which was all wishful thinking as a player in an advanced position by definition is influencing the game. The player influences where the goalkeeper is looking, he influences the defensive set-up, he is influential merely by his disquieting presence. And if once he is in an attacking position he suddenly becomes active, with the intention of intervening in play, then he is being disloyal to the rules of the game and should be sanctioned with a free kick.

VAR is missing the point of offside

To remedy the “invented offside” we have ended up with the absurdity of the linesman not raising the flag “in case,” only to raise it later after the forward has missed the target or the keeper has made a save. By contrast, tolerance for a player being “in line” with the last defender has been muted, through VAR and it vagaries, to the extent that an offside is now decided by the length of a fingernail, which is the opposite of what was intended when the original law was introduced. In this storm of confusion, we are seeing things like the Unai Simón corner that wasn’t a corner, because his action was conditioned by the proximity of Karim Benzema, while Kylian Mbappé’s goal was not considered offside because of Eric García’s attempt to cut out the ball to the advanced and active France forward. The offside rule is in the hands of idiots.