UEFA TO PROBE MILAN OVER DIDA REPORTS
By Peter O`Rourke. Last Updated: 29/10/00 4:00pm
ITALIAN Serie A giants AC Milan could face the prospect of being thrown out of the Champions' League for allegedly fielding an ineligible player in the ties against Leeds United and Besiktas last month according to reports.
The News Of the World suggests that the European governing body Uefa have launched an investigation after Milan named "illegal immigrant" Nelson Dida for both games.
The scandal surrounds the fact that the Brazilian goalkeeper used a forged Portuguese passport when he was registered as a European Union player with the Italian football federation on July 13.
Dida then played against Besiktas on September 13 and Leeds on September 19.
But about two weeks after the Leeds game, Milan re-registered him as a non-European after vice-president Mauro Galliani discovered the 27-year-old's passport was fake in a routine check.
"Yes, Dida's registration was put in order after the game against Leeds," said Milan spokesperson Vittorio Mentana.
"He arrived here with a Portuguese passport and was registered as a European Community player. But, later, Galliani wanted all foreign players' documents checked and wanted to see if Dida's passport was real or not.
"We checked and we found that Dida's Portuguese document was false. Now he plays as a non-European."
UEFA bosses will now examine why Dida, currently under investigation by the Italian authorities, was allowed to play in the Champions League without a work permit and owning a false passport.
They have refused to rule out the prospect of expelling Milan from the competition if they are found guilty of fielding an illegal player and that would mean Leeds and Barcelona would automatically qualify for the second phase of the tournament.
"This situation has not arisen before so we cannot rule out anything - and that includes expelling the club from the competition," said a Uefa spokeswoman. "We would like to see the News of the World dossier on this case and then we will act upon it. "We have the powers to take action against the club."
It is not the first case of Italian clubs facing investigation for fielding illegal players with fake EU passports.
Lazio star Juan Sebastien Veron is facing prosecution for using a fake Italian passport so that he does require a work permit to play and is not registered as a non-Eu player with only three allowed to play for each club.
Udinese's Brazilian pair Warley and Alberto are also under investigation from the Italian Football Association after they had been discovered to have used fake Portuguese passports to gain entry to Poland for a Uefa Cup tie last month.