Rae's Say: Dida ban deserved
I'm not expecting all of you to agree with the first part of the column this week.
Let me just say, UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body have got it right in my view. No prizes for guessing what ruling I'm referring to.
If you believe Milan's lawyer Leandro Cantamessa, UEFA's decision to fine Celtic £25,000 while banning Dida from Milan's next two Champions League matches is 'disproportionate and illogical'. The defending European club champions will lodge an appeal but I would be absolutely flabbergasted if they're successful.
Did Celtic get off lightly? Probably yes. But ask yourself this. What was more damaging to the game of football and its image? The over-exuberant Celtic fan running on to the pitch and slapping Dida, or the goalkeeper's bad acting job? I think deep down we all know the answer to that question.
Dida's antics were grist to the mill of football haters around the world. He personified everything the game shouldn't represent.
Celtic supporters can be counted on to police themselves and ensure no fans invade the Parkhead pitch in future. One hopes, in the light of this judgement, players who're inclined to cheat (there's no other way to describe what Dida did) will think twice before indulging in amateur dramatics, whether in the run of play or otherwise.
You might have missed it last week amid all the justifiable praise given to Rangers and Celtic on the heels of their recent Champions League successes. However, as Scottish FA chief executive Gordon Smith rightly pointed out the other day, the result achieved by another Scottish club was perhaps even more significant. I'm referring of course to the team I grew up watching and supporting, Aberdeen.
Until last week, no Scottish side outwith the Old Firm, with the exception of Hearts in 2004, had reached the group stage of the UEFA Cup. Fair enough, this sectional business is a recent innovation, but facts are facts, and the provincial clubs in Scotland have been a miserable failure in Europe for a long time now.
Aberdeen's dismissal of the Ukrainians Dnipro over two legs was a considerable achievement for a club with a modest budget, especially considering the spending power of their opponents. For their part, the Dons are approximately £12million in debt and having a difficult time keeping their top players.
Jimmy Calderwood's team must now pit their wits against Panathinaikos, Lokomotiv Moscow, Atletico Madrid and FC Copenhagen. Progress to the round of 32 is unlikely, but that's beside the point.
Scotland can't keep relying on Rangers and Celtic to boost the country's UEFA co-efficient.
When it comes to club against country, I'm generally one who errs on the side of the latter. If it's a close shave, the benefit of the doubt should always be given to international football. The clubs already have more power than is healthy.
However, I find it hard to defend the South American approach to World Cup qualifying. As incredible as it may sound, the quest for places at the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals begins this weekend for every member of CONMEBOL, the South American confederation.
Once upon a time, the countries used to be divided into sections. These days, everyone is lumped together in one big group of ten. The top four qualify automatically, with the fifth placed team granted a two legged play-off meeting with the fourth best team from CONCACAF.
Uruguay, who have ended up fifth in the last World Cup qualifying campaign, were required to play a grand total of twenty competitive matches.
The system is inefficient and frankly absurd. The matches would be just as compelling were the ten teams divided into two groups of five.
With so many top South American players earning a living in Europe, and thus compelled to make numerous gruelling trips back and forth, it's time for a bit of common sense to prevail.
As I see it, there is no benefit of the doubt element in this argument.