The last time a Brazilian footballer was guilty of such ludicrous behaviour during a Champions League match at Celtic Park, UEFA decided to dole out a two-match ban to the player for contravening the natural law of fair play.
It was exactly six years ago to the day that the then AC Milan goalkeeper Dida landed in trouble with the European game's governing body for feigning injury after an excitable Glaswegian emerged from the stands to tap the gigantic Brazilian on the face seconds after Celtic had sealed a 2-1 win over the Italian side in the death throes of a group match.
In scenes that took the thespian Sir John Gielgud years to perfect, the apparently dazed Dida was carted off on a stretcher clutching an ice pack to his head, perhaps hoping that his theatrical efforts could force the game to be replayed. Or have the result overturned. Dida's antics did not go down well with UEFA or large swathes of the Milan supporters, who demanded an apology from their goalkeeper.
Celtic were fined £25,000 for the fan entering the field of play, but UEFA were so unhappy with Dida's conduct they opted for a two-match ban under rules that state "member associations, clubs, as well as their players, officials and members, shall conduct themselves according to the principles of loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship".
What would Neymar’s defence be for his antics last night? When this gifted but quite frankly ridiculous figure began clutching his back after suffering the merest clip to his frame by a brainless Scott Brown, it invoked memories of daft Dida (above). Like Dida, for a grown man to fraternise with such a philosophy is not only shameful, but unacceptable on a night that is supposedly about espousing the finer points of the world game.
Would Pele endorse the ugly side of Neymar's game when he is likely to become the face of next year's World Cup in Brazil? His conduct at Celtic Park was embarrassing, bringing nothing but shame upon his character and the sport. There is nothing to be admired about this from Barcelona's point of view, not when you are directly profiting from feigning injury to get an opponent sent off, however stupid Brown was.
What Neymar did last night was a form of cheating, the same sort of ploy used by Dida in 2007. It ultimately paid off with Barca clutching three points having broken the resistance of Celtic, whose hopes of emulating the 2-1 win of 11 months ago more or less disappeared up the tunnel with Brown.
"I don't think Neymar does himself any favours by the way he behaves at times,” said the Celtic manager Neil Lennon. “Our supporters are very respectful of great players. (Andres) Iniesta walks off tonight to a standing ovation from the Celtic support. While Neymar, he gets booed every time he touches the ball.”
FIFA once took retrospective action against Rivaldo after he clutched his face as if he had been hit with a baseball bat during Brazil’s match against Turkey at the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea. Turkey’s Hakan Unsal was sent off despite only booting the ball against Rivaldo’s shins. FIFA fined the Brazilian over £5,000. If Rivaldo was Neymar’s idol, you can see where he gets it from.
Going by the letter of the law, Brown was guilty of an act of lunacy, naive in the extreme in swiping a boot in the direction of Neymar after the initial foul prompted a standard yellow card. He can have few complaints about the red card. Not when the intent is there.
The French referee Stephane Lannoy called it correctly, but we all know what the true story was. Neymar waits for a split second before clutching the spine of his back when it is clear Brown has made minimal contact. Barca's players surround the referee with Neymar seemingly wilting in agony as the referee alters his decision and opts for the straight red.
There is no doubt in this onlooker’s mind that Brown would only have been booked if Neymar had dusted himself down before jumping back on his feet.
Brown will be banned for violent conduct. He is out of the visit of Ajax of October 22, a match which Celtic with no points from two outings despite performing strongly, must surely win to remain active in pursuit of second spot in Group H. It would be refreshing if Neymar was asked to explain himself. For a man signed from Santos for £49m, his behaviour last night was worthless, morally bankrupt.
"We talk about respect in the game,” said the Scotland manager Gordon Strachan. “We get these handshakes before the game, and banners about respect. That is just a clip on his back maximum. How do you go home at night? What did you do today, darling? Well, I rolled about in agony because somebody nearly touched me....they'll do anything to win.”
Barca may well have won the match with 11 men, but without Lionel Messi to cut open the home side, Celtic looked comfortable enough for at least a point. Barcelona dominated possession, but most of it was played in front of Celtic, who were only truly unhinged when they were reduced to 10.
Cesc Fabregas sealed the win for Barca with a header after Charlie Mulgrew had squandered a simple headed chance to give Celtic the lead. On such small margins do such matches hinge.
With a history of diving, this is not the first time Neymar has soiled his reputation among Scottish supporters. He claimed Scotland’s fans at the Emirates Stadium were guilty of racially abusing him during a friendly in 2011.
It was an astonishing outburst, centred around a general jeering towards his constant diving and a banana being tossed from the Brazilian section of the ground. The evidence was as flimsy as his build. A German teenager stationed among the Brazil fans was later found to have tossed the banana.
Neymar refused to apologise for branding Scotland fans racist two years ago. He will not apologise for his play-acting.
“It was an important victory. I’m happy to have collaborated in the play leading up to the goal," he said last night. "I’m adapting more to the team’s dynamic each day.”
His main collaboration was influencing the referee to red card Brown. At 21, it is time for Neymar to grow up by behaving properly. Sooner or later, these shenanigans are going to catch up with him.
In life, failing to adhere to proper standards only invites trouble.
- Sports & Recreation