Hugo Almeida found out in a cruel way that he will be suspended along with playmaker Diego when Werder Bremen face Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup final on May 20.
The Portuguese striker had celebrated the 3-2 semi-final win at SV Hamburg with his teammates on the pitch and strolled into the mixed zone saying, “I am so happy to be in the final.”
It was only then that a reporter told him quietly that the yellow card he picked up two minutes into stoppage time would make him ineligible for the big match in Istanbul.
“Really?” Almeida asked in utter astonishment. “100 percent?” he continued as his face turned pale. The reporter nodded, Almeida hung his head and walked away in silence as tears filled his eyes.
He simply hadn’t known. Possibly others were unaware as well, as no one appeared to have told him.
They all knew about Diego, though, as at the same time midfielder Torsten Frings started the choir of lamenting the fateful booking he had received in the first half — like Almeida for a heated argument with a Hamburg player.
“The suspension is unjust. The referee was against us,” fumed the temperamental Frings in the direction of Belgian Frank de Bleeckere.
Coach Thomas Schaaf was also not amused: “This is very disappointing. Diego attacked no one. If you want to see emotions in football then the players must be able to show their emotions.”
Claudio Pizarro was less sentimental.
“That’s football,” the Peruvian striker said.
But Pizarro also said “Diego played a great match” and that it was “a pity” he won’t be in the final.
The man himself kept a straight face, well aware from the minute he was shown the card that his dream of the final was over.
“It is very bad for me not to go to the final. It was a difficult situation. I didn’t do anything,” Diego said.
But Bremen has to live with the reality of his absence on May 20, which could be a test for the future as a summer move of Diego to Italian giants Juventus Turin was on Thursday reported to be all but completed.
Maybe Bremen will also take heart from the fact that Diego was also not present when Bremen secured its place in the UEFA Cup as Champions League dropout with a surprise 2-1 win over Inter Milan in December.
Frings, meanwhile, insisted that Bremen has a good team even in the absence of Diego and promised that: “Now we will try and win the cup for him.”