The extraordinary play-acting of Milan's goalkeeper, Dida, during the denouement to Celtic's 2-1 Champions League win at Parkhead on Wednesday night will be examined by Uefa as part of a wide-ranging investigation that could see Celtic being severely punished for a fan invading the pitch and touching the Brazilian.
Theoretically, the result of the match could be reversed in Milan's favour or Celtic could have points deducted but neither scenario is likely, especially as Milan will not call for that. Milan confirmed that stance yesterday. But a heavy fine for Celtic is almost certain. And there looms the prospect of a ban on fans at Parkhead for one or more Champions League games. With their superb home record – just one defeat in their last 19 games in the competition – that could be truly damaging. But the case promises to be complex.
Dida's conduct will come under the spotlight because his actions turned what was ultimately a harmless – if idiotic – act by the fan into what is being treated, in effect, like an assault. He fell, as if poleaxed, after being brushed on the face.
Nobody at Celtic is denying that the fan's incursion was serious,or that punishment is due for allowing a player to be touched. But Dida could find himself in the dock if Uefa decides that his simulation somehow inflamed the situation. However, one well-placed source suggested last night that a charge for Dida is unlikely on the basis the fan should never have been on the pitch in the first place.
Uefa, which will consider footage of the incident, set a precedent last month for punishing simulation on the basis of a review of video evidence when they found Lithuania's Saulius Mikoliunas guilty of diving against Scotland in a Euro 2008 qualifier. He was banned for two games. Sources say Uefa seems unsure what precise charge Dida might face, as his actions had no affect on the game. A general misconduct charge seems increasingly unlikely.
The supporter – a 27-year-old man who was yesterday banned for life by Celtic and taken into custody by Strathclyde police – ran on to the pitch as Celtic were celebrating Scott McDonald's last-minute winner.
He approached Dida, patted the lower half of the Brazilian's face lightly with his left hand, and ran away. Dida, completely unharmed, took three steps in pursuit of the fan, paused momentarily, and then collapsed to the ground. He spent several minutes on the turf, received lengthy medical attention for reasons still be explained, and was then taken off on a stretcher, clutching an ice pack to his face.
Celtic's chairman, Brian Quinn, yesterday urged Uefa to investigate Dida. "I'm making no excuses for the [pitch invader's] behaviour, and the fan behaved disgracefully," he said. "But the contact made with the goalkeeper was minimal, absolutely minimal. The antics of the goalkeeper have to be taken into account as well.
"All I saw were the TV pictures. He [Dida] took a couple of steps after the fan and then obviously made this decision that he should go to ground. Unless I missed something he was carried off on a stretcher for what seemed to be the lightest tap you can imagine."
Reports from the match referee, Markus Merk, and the Uefa delegate at the game, Andreas Akkelides, arrived at Uefa's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland, yesterday. The investigation will seek evidence from all parties, and charges will follow if appropriate. The earliest that punishments will be meted out is next Thursday, 11 October, when Uefa's Control and Disciplinary Panel next convenes, although the probe might take longer.
"The investigation will include Dida's actions as well that of the fan," a Uefa spokesman confirmed. "Celtic's punishment, if charges are made and proved, could range from a fine to a deduction of points or playing behind closed doors."
The spokesman cited one recent precedent of a fan interrupting a game and attacking somebody – during Denmark's Euro 2008 qualifier with Sweden in June – as an example of how seriously Uefa takes such matters. On that occasion, a Danish supporter assaulted the referee, Herbert Fandel, after he had given Sweden a penalty. The game (level at 3-3 before the incident) was abandoned and subsequently awarded by Uefa to Sweden, 3-0. The Danish FA was fined £46,000 (halved on appeal), and ordered to play their next two matches at least 90 miles away from Copenhagen, where the incident happened.
Celtic are highly unlikely to be hit as hard, for several reasons. Celtic's game was not abandoned, the assault was not as serious, it did not affect the outcome, and Milan are not calling for any action.
But equally, they can expect a much tougher punishment than that handed out to Rangers after a home fan ran on to the pitch and chained himself to the goalpost during a game at Ibrox last November.
Rangers were fined £4,212 for that. It is likely that Celtic will face a tougher sanction because the Rangers incident was treated effectively more as protest than assault.