Well, frankly, I wasn’t expecting that.
Platini must be hiding under his duvet in embarrassment this evening as the Uefa appeals body came to the conclusion that, when it comes to accusing someone of deception, you have to be able to prove it.
This was what they had to say about it:
Following examination of all the evidence, notably the declarations of both the referee and the referees’ assessor, as well as the various video footage, it was not established to the panel’s satisfaction that the referee had been deceived in taking his decision on the penalty.
So how would they have been able to prove deception? I imagine they would have needed to have been comfortable that there was no contact at all when Eduardo tumbled. In this case, that just can’t be proven.
Arsenal are happy too:
“We are grateful that the Appeals Body focused on the evidence and made the right decision in this case. We were able to show that there was contact between the goalkeeper and Eduardo and that the decision of the UEFA Disciplinary body should be annulled. We fully support the drive for fair play in football and believe it is important that UEFA provide clear and comprehensive standards that will be consistently enforced going forward. We are glad to put this incident behind us and concentrate on the games ahead.”
As is Eduardo:
“Iâ€™m very pleased that we have finally arrived at the truth. All we needed to do was to prove what happened and we have managed to do that. This decision makes me feel a lot better… All I remember of the incident is that as soon as I had possession of the ball I headed towards goal at full speed. I was very close to the Celtic keeper and felt contact on my foot and then lost my balance. I know perhaps more than anyone else that when you have contact at speed it can be dangerous. I just want to say that Iâ€™m a fair player. To score goals you must take your opportunities and Iâ€™m not the type of player who needs to be dishonest to score goals.”
Interesting stuff, because at the time, like many others, I thought Eduardo did dive. It looked that way to me. However, he is adamant he did not dive, rather that he lost his balance having felt contact. As Uefa have discovered, in this instance, given no clear evidence that he fell to the ground in order to deceive the referee and earn a penalty, he has to be taken at his word.
Perhaps the most telling thing is the admission that “I know perhaps more than anyone else that when you have contact at speed it can be dangerous.” So basically, he was trying to avoid injury. Psychologically, given the horrendous leg break in January 2008, that argument makes a lot of sense.
On top of that, as Arsenal implied, any retrospective punishment for this kind of thing needs “clear and comprehensive standards that will be consistently enforced going forward”. Most people would support that – and that was patently lacking in this instance.
Banning Eduardo would have opened a can of worms they’re not prepared to deal with, at least not at the moment.
So some football fans might moan, and many will disagree, but Uefa came to the only conclusion they could in the end.