The set of photographs is one of the most iconic in football history, with Marco Materazzi and Rui Costa, rivals on opposite sides of one of the sport’s fiercest derby rivalries, united on the San Siro pitch as flares rained down from the stands during a Milan derby in 2005.
It was 12 April 2005 and AC Milan were facing Inter in the second leg of a Champions League quarter-final tie. Both clubs share the historic stadium but the Rossoneri were the ‘away’ team that night, having already won 2-0 in the first leg a week earlier.
Andriy Shevchenko’s first half strike added to Milan’s aggregate lead and ensured that Inter would have to score four to overturn the deficit and account for the away goal as well.
With around 20 minutes remaining, Inter did pull a goal back through Esteban Cambiasso, only for it then to be ruled out striker Julio Cruz was adjudged, harshly so, to have fouled Milan goalkeeper Dida. With Inter fans already frustrated by the score-line, it sparked ugly crowd violence.
Flares and other projectiles were thrown down onto the pitch. As they burned bright, plumes of smoke rose, giving San Siro a hell-ish pink and red hue. One of the lit flares thrown actually struck Dida on the shoulder, just barely missing the Brazilian’s head.
He lay stricken on the pitch requiring medical treatment and the game was eventually abandoned after a 20-minute delay and a brief attempt to restart play.
In amongst the unsavoury scenes unfolding, Materazzi and Costa were stood close to each other in the centre circle, watching on. A series of photographs captured the pair in the foreground, with the smoke and flares eerily shrouding the stands and engulfing the pitch.
One with hands on hips and the other with arms folded, at one stage Materazzi even leaned over and put his arm on Costa’s shoulder, like a moment of calm solidarity in the frenzied atmosphere.
After the game was abandoned, Milan were awarded a 3-0 result, while Inter were punished by UEFA for the fan violence and unrest and were ordered to play their next European home game behind closed doors. Having been beaten 5-0 on aggregate, it was the start of the following season.
There is also an argument to say that Dida was never the same after that night. He had always been capable of mistakes but was still noted as a strong shot stopper and had even made several important saves before the game was abandoned.
Afterwards, however, his form seemed to desert him more consistently. He was only 31 at the time of the incident, arguably peak age for a goalkeeper, but the 2005/06 campaign that followed would be his last full season as Milan’s number one and was in full decline by 2007.