Jesus Silva, better known simply as Dida is a former Brazilian football goalkeeper. After starting his senior club career in Brazil in the early 1990s with Vitória, Dida became a penalty kick-saving specialist with Cruzeiro and Corinthians. He is perhaps best remembered for his successful and often tumultuous ten-year stint with Milan from 2000 to 2010, where he established himself as one of the world’s best goalkeepers due to his shot-stopping ability and command of the area; he won multiple trophies and individual awards with the club. Although he is regarded by several pundits as one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, Dida has received a divided response to his playing style, particularly during his time with Milan, where he was noted for excelling as a Brazilian goalkeeper in a country (Italy) renowned for producing quality keepers. He trained extensively with Rossoneri goalkeeping coach Villiam Vecchi, who had previously tutored Gianluigi Buffon at Parma. Vecchi described Dida as “more reflective” in his gameplay, whereas Buffon acted mainly on instinct. In his prime, Dida was recognized for his shot-stopping ability and command of the area, and for possessing athleticism and reflexes that belied his imposing size, which enabled him to perform acrobatic “miracle” saves without resorting to histrionics, while former coaches have praised him for keeping his emotions in check after conceding a goal. Dida’s best-known attribute is his expertise in saving penalties, which is acknowledged mainly in Brazil due to his accomplishments with Corinthians. He is additionally recognized for his reserved disposition both on and off the pitch and his reluctance in granting interviews, as well as his physical conditioning and work ethic.
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Considered to be one of the best goalkeepers of his generation, Dida is the first Brazilian goalkeeper to be nominated for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, is the first two-time winner of the FIFA Club World Cup, a seven-time nominee of the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award, and is one of only nine players to win both the Champions League and the Copa Libertadores. He was named the best Latin American keeper, and the sixth-best keeper overall, of the 21st century by IFFHS, and is widely rated among the all-time greats in the position for Brazil alongside Marcos, Rogério Ceni, Cláudio Taffarel and Gilmar. He has been credited with helping end the prejudice against black goalkeepers in Brazilian club football due to his success in Europe, and upon joining Internacional in 2014, became the first Afro-Brazilian keeper to play for the club in 43 years.
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With his success at Corinthians gaining the attention of Luiz Felipe Scolari, who had replaced Luxemburgo following Brazil’s lackluster qualification, Dida was called up for the 2002 World Cup held jointly in South Korea and Japan, as the backup to Marcos, whom Scolari had previously coached at Palmeiras. Dida and third-choice Rogério Ceni never left the bench as the Seleção won its fifth trophy with a 2–0 defeat of Germany. On the afternoon of the final, Dida was requested by Ronaldo to keep him company in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the events prior to the 1998 final, when Ronaldo had suffered a convulsive fit in his sleep that factored into his poor performance in Brazil’s loss. They spent the time talking and playing golf before departing for International Stadium in Yokohama. Ronaldo scored both goals in the 2002 victory and won the tournament’s Golden Shoe award.
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Nelson Dida hit by the burning flare during the Champions League game vs Internazionale
“I played with Iker Casillas for four years at Real Madrid, but for me Dida is the best goalkeeper. We played together and won together at AC Milan and for the Brazil national team. He is an unbelievable keeper” Ricardo Kaka’
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In the 2004-2005 Champions League, Dida allowed only three goals in Milan’s first ten matches, including a string of five straight clean sheets following a 2–1 group-stage loss to Barcelona on 2 November 2004. The fifth of these came against crosstown rival Internazionale in the quarter-finals on 7 April 2005, in which Dida kept the Nerazzurri at bay with multiple saves, notably that of a top-corner Siniša Mihajlović free kick. With Milan leading 1–0 in the return leg on 12 April, Inter midfielder Esteban Cambiasso’s second-half header was disallowed by referee Markus Merk due to a foul on Dida by forward Julio Cruz. Inter ultras located in the curva behind Dida’s goal reacted to the call by hurling bottles and burning flares onto the pitch. As Dida attempted to resume gameplay by clearing out the debris from his penalty area to take a goal kick, a flare struck him on his right shoulder, missing his head by inches. The match was halted as firefighters worked to clear the pitch while Dida received treatment for bruising and first-degree burns to his shoulder. After a half-hour delay, the game resumed with Christian Abbiati in goal but was abandoned less than a minute later after more projectiles rained down. UEFA officially awarded Milan a 3–0 win, resulting in Dida tying a Champions League record, then shared with Edwin van der Sar and Józef Wandzik, with his sixth consecutive shutout. Inter were later fined €200,000 (₤132,000) by UEFA and ordered to play their next four European matches behind closed doors. In the semi-finals against PSV, Dida set a competition record with his seventh consecutive clean sheet in Milan’s 2–0 first-leg victory on 26 April, but his scoreless streak ended at 623 total minutes following a Park Ji-sung strike in the ninth minute of the second leg on 4 May as PSV won 3–1, but the Rossoneri advanced to the final on away goals. In the Final Dida allowed three goals in the (un)famous game against Liverpool when Milan A.C. was winning 3-0 after the first half and lost the game to the penalties after a 3-3 during the regular time.
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Dida is the first notable Afro-Brazilian goalkeeper to play for club and country since Moacyr Barbosa, who had starred for Vasco da Gama and earned seventeen caps for Brazil, but bore the blame for Uruguay’s winning goal in the 1950 World Cup final, which resulted thereafter in discrimination against black goalkeepers in Brazilian football. Dida was hailed by Brazilian media outlets for breaking this barrier after making his 1995 national team debut, starting in the 1999 Copa América, and particularly in 2006, when he became the first black keeper in 56 years to start in a World Cup for Brazil. On May 27, 2006, during a press conference in Weggis, Switzerland, where the Seleção were holding public training sessions, Dida called for his countrymen to forgive Barbosa, and to instead remember his positive contributions to Brazilian football. On June 11, two days before the Seleção’s opening match against Croatia, Folha de S.Paulo commented, “Black, Northeastern, and in his thirties, Dida will break barriers for a Brazilian goalkeeper.” Though such accolades continued for Dida after the tournament and his international retirement, he and Barbosa currently remain the only Afro-Brazilian keepers to have started a World Cup final.