The footballing world was hit with some devastating news this week with the passing of Fiorentina captain and Italy international Davide Astori.
On the 4th of March, Astori died in his sleep while staying in a hotel in Udine prior to Fiorentina’s match against Udinese, later proven to be caused by cardiac arrest. With many coaches, players, governing bodies, pundits and fans paying their respects, Astori’s former employers Cagliari and Fiorentina both retired the number 13 jersey worn by Astori in his honour.
— ACF Fiorentina (@acffiorentina) March 6, 2018
Per onorarne la memoria e rendere indelebile il ricordo di Davide Astori, @acffiorentina e @CagliariCalcio hanno deciso di ritirare congiuntamente la maglia con il numero 13. #DA13 pic.twitter.com/mH746vWRsA
— Cagliari Calcio (@CagliariCalcio) March 6, 2018
The retiring of a squad number is always likely to cause some debate amongst number aficionados, in the event of an active player passing I am fully in favour of this notion.
A long-standing tradition
It’s not the first time that we’ve seen a club posthumously retire a squad number in honour of their former player. Plenty of teams have either permanently or at least temporarily prevented anyone else wearing a specific number, including teams from the Premier League.
Here are some notable examples:
Marc-Vivien Foé 17 at RC Lens and 23 at Manchester City
Foé is one of very few players to have a squad number retired at more than one club, and the only player we are aware of to have different numbers retired at those clubs.
After his untimely death in 2003, Foé’s former employers RC Lens and Manchester City both retired the numbers that he wore whilst at the clubs – 17 and 23 respectively.
Cheick Tioté 24 at Beijing Enterprises
Another player to tragically lose his life whilst still playing, the former Newcastle United man lost his life after suffering a cardiac arrest whilst training for the Chinese outfit at the age of 30. The Ivorian had only signed for Beijing Enterprises four months prior to his passing, and turned out for them just 11 times. In his honour, the club retired his number 24. He also wore the same number whilst at Newcastle, though the number 24 there is occupied by Henri Saivet.
Two other Chinese sides have posthumously retired numbers as well – Dalian Shide retired the number 26 for Zhang Yalin, and Dalian Transcendence retired the number 17 in honour of forward Wang Renlong.
Bobby Moore 6 at West Ham United
A World Cup hero and West Ham captain for over 10 years, Bobby Moore is an English football icon. It comes as no surprise that West Ham United retired the number 6 in his honour. It wasn’t retired when he retired, not when the left the club nor when he passed away. The Hammers retired the shirt number in 2008, 50 years after his debut for the claret and blues.
West Ham chief executive officer Scott Duxbury told the club’s website:
“When we were talking about ways to mark 50 years since Bobby Moore’s debut, there was only one true gesture that would do him justice – retiring the number six shirt he made his own.”
At the time the shirt number was retired, it was actually being worn by defender Matthew Upson. He was more than happy to give the number up, and switched to the number 15.
Hussein Dokmak and Hussein Naeem 3 and 12 at Nejmeh Sporting Club
Hussein Dokmak and Hussein Naeem were both playing for Nejmeh Sporting Club when they were killed in a car bombing outside the Al Manara Stadium in which Lebanese politician Walid Eido was also killed.
Adam Stansfield 9 at Exeter City
While this one wasn’t permanent, as a mark of respect after Stansfield’s passing, Exeter City retired his number 9 jersey for 9 seasons back in 2010.
In addition to this, Hereford FC gave a minute’s applause to Stansfield in the 9th minute – his number for the Bulls – in the 2016 FA Vase Final.
Exeter and Yeovil agreed that on their meeting at St James Park on 8th August 2015, there would be a minute’s applause in the seventh minute and ninth, for the numbers he wore at each club.
Dylan Tombides 38 at West Ham United
At the age of just 20 years old, West Ham United’s Australian forward Dylan Tombides lost his battle with testicular cancer.
Whilst he was registered as number 39 for some of his time in London, he primarily wore 38, and the club retired that number in his honour. Tombides has 1 of the 2 retired numbers at West Ham – the other being Bobby Moore’s number 6.
Junior Malanda 19 at VfL Wolfsburg
Belgian holding midfielder Junior Malanda was involved in a car crash whilst travelling in Germany ahead of a flight to a training camp based in South Africa. The Wolfsburg number 19 was killed instantly.
The Bundesliga side later announced that the number had been retired for Malanda.
Miklós Fehér 29 at S.L. Benfica
In a very public incident, Hungarian striker Miklós Fehér suffered a cardiac arrest whilst playing for Benfica against Vitória de Guimarães. He was taken to the hospital where he later succumbed to his condition.
In his memory, Benfica retired the number 29 shirt, which he wore during his time at the club. He wore 15 during his time with FC Porto, however that number was not retired.
Miki Roqué 26 at Real Betis
The former Liverpool defender was plying his trade in La Liga up until his death in 2012. Real Betis announced that they were retiring Miki’s number 26 at a memorial mass at the Benito Villamarin.
The centre-back made 12 appearances for the Liga outfit after arriving in Seville from Liverpool in 2009, spending a year with the B team before being integrated into the senior squad.
Roque, who was capped three times by his country’s Under-19 side, was diagnosed with cancer during a routine check-up on a back problem.
Daniel Jarque 21 at RCD Espanyol
The final player in our list is Espanyol’s Daniel Jarque. The Spaniard died during pre-season in 2009 after suffering from a heart attack.
After his passing, Espanyol announced that they were retiring his squad number 21. However, in 2016, the club announced that they would be reassigning the number 21 to a homegrown player the following season.
A statement on Los Periquitos’ official website explained:
“This is the best possible tribute: to make No 21 visible again and have it worn by a homegrown player, as was the unforgettable and dearly-missed Daniel Jarque. For all new generations of players, Jarque is their mirror and best example, and so the honour of wearing the No 21 in the first team – and therefore sharing the esteem and passion he had for Espanyol – will always rest with a homegrown player.”
The number is currently being worn by midfielder Marc Rosa, a Spaniard who progressed through Espanyol’s youth academy.
The Espanyol training ground and B-team stadium was also renamed in Jarque’s memory.
What are your thoughts on posthumously retiring squad numbers? Do you feel they should be permanently retired, or gradually put back into rotation? Let us know in the comments or on our Twitter page!