Ah, squad numbers… they’re always a great cause of consternation, controversy, and conflict. Maybe that borders a bit on hyperbole, but the point is this: For the most part, shirt numbers have stories behind them — some sentimental, some strange.
We touched on a few of these eccentric choices previously, particularly goalkeeper Rui Patrício’s number 11 he wears for Wolves. Obviously, it is rare for goalkeepers to wear any number from 2 to 11, so Patrício’s choice qualifies as odd to say the least. He isn’t alone, however, and his number switch isn’t even the most bizarre. That distinction goes to the following players:
When there’s a number in your name, or surname for that matter, why not wear it, right? That’s exactly what the late Zerouali did, with some outside prodding, of course. JOE reports that Aberdeen fans, noting the zero in Zerouali, pleaded their new signing to take the number zero. Of course, the Moroccan agreed. That number is now retired, though, as Zerouali tragically passed away in 2004 in a car crash. Nevertheless, number Zero will forever be a hero for Dons fans, who had fallen in love with the affable and talented Zerouali in his all-too-brief stay at Pittodrie. Interestingly, no one would have worn zero again any way as the Scottish Premier League and the Premier League outlawed that number the very next season.
The BBC is right, the number 01 just doesn’t look right. But that’s exactly the number worn by Derek Riordan for Hibernian in the Scottish Premiership. He originally wore number 10 in his first stint with Hibernian. He transferred to Celtic, where he spent two largely uneventful seasons. Riordan ultimately returned to Hibernian, only to find someone wearing his favourite number. So, Riordan settled for the next best thing: rock the mirror image of 10, which is 01. Thankfully, he wore that number for a full season only as he got back his 10 the very next year.
It’s not uncommon for goalkeepers to don the number 1. Then again, it’s not uncommon for goalkeepers to be eccentric either. That certainly applies to Buffon, who, while between the posts for Parma switched from 1 to 88. If the number switch wasn’t weird enough, his choice of number was weirder still, given how 88 is associated with Neo-Nazis. Really, why go from 1, a fantastic number already, to 88? Buffon later on discussed his choice in an interview, saying that 88 reminded him of four balls. And apparently, “to have balls” in Italy signifies strength and determination. The fans though, didn’t seem to buy this explanation, and Buffon had no choice but to change his number again the very next season. Of course, he went the conventional route and chose 77, the year of his birth. This later spawned a birth-year number trend, but that’s a story for another time.
The number 69 has some, shall we say, naughty connotations. But Lizarazu claimed that’s not at all the reason he wore it for Bayern Munich in 2006. In a fun fact feature about numbers ran by The Guardian, this choice, evidently, was because of the preponderance of 69s in Lizarazu’s life: He was born in 1969, he is 1.69 metres tall, and he weighed 69 kilograms at the time. But in case you were wondering, yes, the man knew the — ahem — innuendos of his chosen number.
Hands down, Iván Zamorano’s 1+8 is the most bizarre. Upon signing with Inter Milan in 1996, Iván el Terrible rocked the number 9. But as FourFourTwo recounts in their own list of weird squad numbers, Zamorano gave up number 9 to Ronaldo, who himself gave up his number 10 to Roberto Baggio. Not one to let go, Zamorano took 18 instead because, well, 1 plus 8 equals 9. Just to make sure, Bam Bam added a small plus sign in-between 1 and 8 to remind people of the maths in play.
The prolific Chilean striker was a lethal during his stint with the club, who are gunning for a 19th Serie A title this season. Inter currently sit 3rd in the league table, with bwin ranking their chances of winning the Serie A title as third favourites, just behind Napoli and of course, reigning champions Juventus. There’s no doubt that Inter would love to call on the likes of Zamorano to give them a little push this season, regardless of how quirky the Chilean was during his time in Milan. Mr. 1+8 would have been a calming presence, and a more-than-capable scoring threat.
In terms of absurdity, it’ll be hard to top 0, 01, 69, 88, and 1+8. But we’re sure we’ve missed a number or two. That’s where you come in. Hit us up with the players who made YOUR list.
Carlos Roa, goalie of Real Mallorca (among others) has #13 on his jersey, but -as Ivan Zamorano- around 1998 he had modified it as 1.3. Rumor has it for being so due to religious matters (1 = Jesus and 3 = Holy Trinity).
Stephen Bywater wore no.43, because his mentor, Les Sealey died at that age.