Celtic last night escaped with a fine of £25,000 from Uefa for "lack of organisation and improper conduct of supporters" during last week's Champions League match against Milan at Parkhead, when a home fan ran on to the pitch. But the fixture will go down in disciplinary history primarily for the bizarre and childish play-acting of Milan's goalkeeper, Dida, after the European game's governing body yesterday gave the Brazilian a two-match ban for breaching rules concerning "loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship".
It was only last month that Uefa first used video evidence to retrospectively punish a player for simulation. That was Lithuania's Saulius Mikoliunas, who received a two-match ban for diving against Scotland in a Euro 2008 qualifier. After yesterday's sanction, Dida has rapidly replaced him in the halls of footballing infamy, for feigning injury after a harmless run-in with a supporter.
The action of the fan, a 27-year-old labourer, Robert McHendry – since banned by Celtic for life – marred what should have been a night of celebration after the Scottish champions beat the European champions 2-1 with a last-minute winner from Scott McDonald. Celtic feared a heavy fine at the least, and worried they may have been forced to play one or more games behind closed doors, or even be deducted points.
But after replays of the incident were televised ad nauseam and Dida's histrionics – after a light tap from McHendry – came under global scrutiny, it quickly became clear that Uefa would have to act, or face accusations that the Milan man had made the game a laughing stock.
Two seasons ago, Dida was part of a Milan side who had a Champions League derby with Internazionale abandoned after he was hit by a flare. Milan were subsequently awarded the game, 5-0, while Inter were forced to play four games behind closed doors.
But against Celtic, there was no excuse for his behaviour after McHendry had run past and brushed him. Dida gave chase for three steps, then collapsed to the turf and lay in apparent distress while he received medical treatment before being taken off on a stretcher with an ice pack against his cheek.
Even in Italy, where headlines had screamed "Dida-ster" at the goalkeeper's performance and faking of injury, a majority of supporters believed he should be punished.
Uefa brought disciplinary proceedings against Dida and Milan on the basis of Article 5, Paragraph 1 of the Uefa disciplinary regulation section, "Principles of Conduct". Under this, "member associations, clubs, as well as players, officials and members, shall conduct themselves according to the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship".
Dida is understood to have been found guilty of breaching the principles for several of the 10 reasons given in the statute book, including "violating the basic rules of decent conduct" and culpably causing a match to be interrupted for no justifiable reason. No disciplinary action has been taken against Milan.
Celtic were fined ¿35,760 (£25,000) after being found guilty of a lack of organisation and improper conduct by fans. Half of the fine will be deferred for a probationary period of two years. That means Celtic will pay £12,500 now, and if a similar offence is committed over the next two years, the other half will be added on for the new infringement.
Celtic and Dida both have three days in which to appeal. Celtic will not. Their chief executive, Peter Lawwell, said last night: "As a club we feel this penalty is proportionate to the incident in question and a fair outcome. Celtic Football Club took this matter extremely seriously and following an immediate internal investigation took swift and firm action against the offender in question."
Milan are preparing to appeal Dida's punishment. The club's lawyer, Leandro Cantamessa described it as "illogical", saying Dida was touched as a result of a pitch invasion that should never have happened. "The decision lacks logic and equilibrium," he said.
Milan's vice-president Adriano Galliani, claimed on Wednesday that Dida had complained of feeling dizzy after the incident. "If someone feels dizzy, in any case, it's right to substitute him," he said. He did not say whether Dida was dizzy through embarrassment.Reuse content