Have you ever wondered why there are 11 players in a team and 22 on the field? Have you wondered why the iconic shirt numbers are 10, 9, and 7? Why the best players wear 10, why the best strikers wear 9, and 7s are the most elusively gifted? Is it random chance that seventeen-year-old Pele was wearing 10 when he became the youngest player to score twice in a World Cup final, or Geoff Hurst was wearing 10 in the 1966 final, or Kylian Mbappe was a 10 when he became the only other player to score a hat trick in a World Cup final? The best player at the 2022 World Cup was Lionel Messi, also wearing 10.
Most Sports scientists say numbers have no inherent meaning. They are a human construct and have no impact on performance. Numbered shirts merely help officials and the crowd identify a player. A few take a wider perspective claiming numbers do have specific qualities and do influence player performance. Pythagoras taught his students ‘numbers are the substance of all things’. Isaac Newton said ‘the physical world is governed by numbers’. We now know that consciousness has a frequency and all frequencies can be reduced to number. Numerologists say if you know your Ruling number you know where you fit in the universe. Indeed, the secret to fulfilling your football potential is wearing the shirt number that resonates with your psychology.
At the 1958 World Cup finals Pele was a shy, inexperienced seventeen-year-old, not a first choice starter. It seems surprising that he was chosen for the 10. However, the Brazil squad was initially submitted without any numbers so the tournament officials assigned the numbers randomly. 10 chose Pele! Subsequently, Ronaldinho wore 10, now Neymar is probably their best playmaker. Probably the best female player ever is Brazil’s record-breaking Marta or possibly it’s Japan’s impeccable Homare Sawa? Best of British 10s are Georgia Stanway, Denis Law, Kim Little, Wayne Rooney and Marcus Rashford. Maradona wore 10 for Argentina, as did the magical Juan Ramon Riquelme and now Messi. For France it was the great Platini, the incomparable Zidane, and now it’s Mbappe. Italy had the excellence of Mazzola, Totti, Zola, Del Piero, and Roberto Baggio. For two thousand years 10 has symbolised successful completion in whatever endeavour humans partake. It stands for the perfected consciousness: body and soul aligned. In football terms 10 has come to signify a complete player, a genius, someone who has taken skills to a sublime level and is able to execute them when it really matters on the pitch. There is vision, inspiration, joy and beauty in their art transforming a sport that would otherwise be a mundane contest of the technical and tactical. When we consider the inner meaning of 10, it is comprised of 1 (a symbol of spirit, of heaven) and 0 (earth) coming together. It is symbolic of a player who has overcome time and space and connected with the Divine realms.
9 is the number associated with the main striker, the centre forward, the focus of attack, the spearhead: the one who finishes off the opponent. S/he is there to cause confusion, disruption and chaos in their defensive lines but mainly they are there to stick the ball in the back of the net. We ascribe certain qualities to the number 9: They are bold, forceful daredevils with physical strength and power. They are dynamic, courageous and combative. They never take a backward step and when an opportunity to strike arises they instinctively seize the moment.
Nikola Tesla said that if we understood the majesty of nine we would understand energy. Pythagoras called it a magical number because it has special properties: in addition to subjecting humans to a nine year cycle of inner growth and development, any number multiplied by 9 produces 9 (e.g. 6×9 = 54. 5+4 = 9). In astrology 9 is the number of the warrior, personified in Mars. In myth he was the ultimate number 9 – a battle hardened fighter, aggressive, courageous, a dynamo driven by desire causing chaos and carnage in his wake. He was fearless and ferocious but not invincible: he was brought to his knees by the goddess Athena and badly beaten up by Hercules, but he bounced back.
Famous number 9s include Gerd Muller, Jurgen Klinsmann, Birgit Prinz, Ellen White, Marco Van Basten, Luca Vialli, Callum Wilson, Alan Shearer, Malcolm MacDonald, John Hartson, John Radford, Jamie Vardy, Luis Suarez, Erling Haarland, Gabriel Batistuta, and Karim Benzema.
7 is more mysterious and harder to understand. Sevens are the mavericks, mystics, and philosophers. They are not easily categorised, they do not fit the mould. They play football because they love it and It loves them. They are dribblers, body swervers and nut-megging entertainers. Systems cannot constrain them. Coaching manuals mean nothing. AI data bases cannot define them. They see the bigger picture. They cannot be brainwashed. They are free spirits. At their best they go beyond, beyond brilliant, beyond Belief. They have no limits.
7 has curious associations and qualities; Seven days of Creation: seven days in a week (named after 7 planets): seven visible colours in a rainbow: seven chakras within the body (subtle energy centres). Divide 22 by 7 and it produces the transcendental pi = 3.141592 with no end to the sequence of numbers after the decimal point – 22 is the Master number in Numerology: there are 22 major cards in Tarot: there are 22 paths to Self realisation in Kabbala – 11 inner, 11 outer. There are 22 players in a game. Who decided 11-a-side? The decision was made at the Freemasons Tavern, London in 1863.
In astrology 7 is the mysterious and deep Lord of the wide blue yonder, Neptune.
Mind-boggling wearers of the number 7 shirt include George Best, Eric Cantona, Matt le Tissier, Beth Mead, Terry Curran, Kenny Dalglish, Kozue Ando, Kevin Keegan, Bukayo Saka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Stanley Matthews, Jairzinho, Antoine Griezmann, Joelinton, and Garrincha.