Jersey Numbers in Football
Numbers in sports were first used to identify players on the pitch. It later escalated to a point where numbers became iconic.
Jerseys usually have this pattern of the player's name where the jersey number would be beneath it. Most sports don't have an exclusiveness to the number system, meaning anyone can wear any number as long as it's free and doesn't have any special conditions. Football, however, is different.
Like most sports, football is a position-based game. Players are often instructed and played according to their designated positions. Generally, a team of 11 football players consists of 1 goalkeeper and 10 outfield players. The outfield players are divided according to their positions, and the jersey numbers are allocated accordingly.
Typically, the number 1 is given to the first-choice keeper at any team. Defenders usually wear the numbers from 2-5, and the primary playmaker is seen to wear the numbers 8 or 10. Forwards choose any of the numbers between 7,9,10, and 11.
Today, however, the traditional jersey numbering system has changed. However, it has left some very iconic imprints. Because of how the numbers were associated before, certain traits have been linked with specific numbers. For example, the number 10 is usually provided to a playmaker or a gifted forward in your team. Wearing the number 7 means you are likely to be fast and have a couple of fancy skills up your sleeves.
During selection, players are usually given the luxury to choose any number they want. Most players choose a number when they join a club or before the season starts. National team jersey numbers are designated according to the team's starting lineup. Occasionally, a player can also be seen changing his jersey number in the middle of the season because of personal preference or team management.
Jersey numbers can often be symbolic. Sometimes, a club may choose to retire a jersey out of respect for the player it was worn by. A good example would be the case of Paolo Maldini. He was an exceptional defender for both club and his country, Italy. For his services, AC Milan decided to retire his jersey number, 3, and would only give it to one of his sons should they ever play for Milan.
Jersey numbers surprisingly can be problematic too. Deciding to wear a number that was previously owned by legends can mount a tremendous amount of pressure on the one inheriting it. That's why iconic numbers at big clubs are often preserved for unique players. The number 7 at Manchester United is a prime example of how a number at the back of your shirt can be a pressing issue. Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left, United has seemingly tried countless times to fill that void. Every player after Ronaldo who wore the number failed to replicate anything close to him. Therefore, they were always amidst criticism from the press and the fans.
In the realm of football, where numbers are everywhere, jersey numbers are merely dots. But they still have the power to pull strings that could potentially make larger shockwaves than expected. As a football fan myself, they are just another way to identify players. In the football world, however, they are so much more.