Why Football Shirt Numbers are Different By Country

Why football shirt numbers are different by country.
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Shirt numbers were first used in European football on August 25th, 1928 in matches between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal, and Chelsea and Swansea Town. These fixtures began the convention of numbering players right to left, back to front, based on pitch location.

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38 thoughts on “Why Football Shirt Numbers are Different By Country”

  1. Not long after watching this video, I saw the whole of the Crystal Palace-Liverpool 1990 FA Cup semi-final (Palace put it up on YouTube), so I was interested to see if the shirt numbers matched English convention. So obviously, as the video says, both sides started with 1-11, but: Palace's wide men (certainly during the first half) were John Salako and Andy Gray, wearing 10 and 4 respectively. Phil Barber was wearing 7 but probably playing in the number 10 role. Alan Pardew was wearing 11 but seemed to be in central midfield.

    For Liverpool, John Barnes wearing 10 but ostensibly playing down the left, and Peter Beardsley 7 but more centrally, but as they seemed to swapping positions fairly freely, that actually made sort of sense.

  2. Not sure it’s convincing when it comes to Brazil. If you look at the 1970 national team, you’ll realise right back winger Carlos Alberto wore number 4. It isn’t until the late 1970s that right back wingers will start wearing number 2, I think. Some teams (I guess it’s the case with Gremio and Santos) still have their right back wingers wear 4.

  3. at this point I want to voice my dislike for england's weird tradition of giving the starting 11 the numbers 1-11 but only in friendlies…
    its just so dumb. imagine going on international break and play 2 games with different shirt within a couple of days.

  4. World cup winning 1982 italian national side is worth noting here. Their shirt number system was fairly odd, with Goalkeepers wearing 1/12/22 (that's standard), defenders wearing shirts 2 to 8, midfielders wearing shirts 9 to 14 (10 being a substitute player and never played a game in the whole cup if i recall correctly) and attacking players wearing shirts 15 to 21. I always found that really odd, although i probably can't fully understand because i wasn't alive in 1982.

  5. As a kid I was fascinated by the dominant Liverpool team's numbering. A second striker wearing 7 (Keegan / Dalglish), central defender wearing 6 (Hansen), central midfielder wearing 8 (Sammy Lee, Jimmy Case) goal scoring midfielder wearing 5 (Ray Kennedy, Ronnie Whelan), left wingers wearing 9 (Steve Highway), main strikers wearing 10 (David Johnson). It gave them an air of mystery, of them somehow playing a different game to everyone else.

  6. Was hoping you would explain why Denmark, Sweden and maybe some other European countries have a winger or midfielder wear 9. I know kallstrom wore 9 for Sweden and i think Russia do the same

  7. I'd mostly written off short numbers as some sort of relic from the past. Which indeed I know for certain now thanks to this video. Nonetheless I found this an interesting view as it touched on the evolution of tactics in the game and how the shift to a back 4 helped make the numbering system all nonsensical and inconsistent. The only things I've noticed with some degree of consistency with numbers is that 1 is the first choice keeper, 10 the jewel in the crown attacker such as Messi or Ronaldinho before him at FC Barca , 7 is often for a tricky winger as crynaldo was before he was played as a cf to help preserve energy.

  8. Please follow this up with a squad numbers video.
    Things like (and have already been mentioned):
    Why some leagues have such high squad numbers (Italian leagues)
    When players couldn't get their usual number (beckham. Zamorano)
    12/13 being the sub keeper's number etc.

  9. Shirt numbers is one of those bizarre niches I've always been interested in but never had the inclination to research, so thank you very much for this, it was fascinating & has probably saved me hours of my life…

  10. Great video. I've always wondered how the shirt numbers evolved from the 2-3-5 to the more modern systems, especially with the back 4, and why it varies so much by country. I miss the times before squad numbers when players just wore 1 to 11.
    Also, that Operário shirt at 5:58 👍

  11. I moved to England last year, and when people ask me where I play on the pitch I'm used to replying I'm a 6. I was kinda surprised to see it doesn't have the same significance and is not as self-explanatory as it is in France.


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