AN UPHILL TO RESURRECT RETIRED JERSEY NUMBERS
*Caption: Former Bafana Bafan Captain Doctor “16V” Khumalo wearing his no.15 jersey;
Photo cred – Soccer Laduma
Written by: Sihle Makhowana
In many football clubs and other different sporting codes such as Basketball, certain jersey numbers have been retired to pay respect to the player who made history whilst wearing the iconic jersey number.
The culture of retiring jersey numbers is often affiliated with the best players in the team who have made great strides in the playing field. This culture honours a player who has meant so much to his club that they retire the shirt number that the player wore during their time in the team.
Orlando Pirates, better known by their nickname ‘sea robbers’ have been for decades not availing the No.10 jersey which was once used by the tactical Jomo Sono. He made immense strides whilst playing for the Soweto based side. He was most feared for his dribbling skills and accurate passing and till this day, Orlando Pirates have not seen anyone with the same accolades as the mighty Jomo Sono.
There are many football clubs all around the world that have framed famous jersey numbers which were worn by players who did the unthinkable in the field. Not only that, but they also moved the world. Players such as the late Lesley Manyathela who played for Orlando Pirates from year 2000-2003 and also players like Doctor Khumalo who played for the mighty Kaizer Chiefs, better known as Amakhosi. Until this very day, their jersey numbers have been off duty.
Avaran van Niekerk, a Manchester United fan shares his sentiments with JournalismIziko about this culture which has honoured so many players including the likes of Ryan Giggs from Manchester.
“Originally when football started they never had names, they had numbers and those numbers were there specifically to designate what position the player played and to ensure there were only 11 players on the pitch,” said van Niekerk.
“The players were more proficient than the others so it came as no surprise that the forwards would get so much recognition, players such as Ronaldo who took number 7 from Beckham,” added Niekerk.
“The process of retiring a number has so much significance but I don’t entirely agree with this culture but if a player does not live up to the history and doesn’t honour the jersey number, then taking it of service might be the right thing,” stated van Niekerk
Manchester United’s iconic number 7 has always been worn by an iconic player who is deemed capable to live up to the success of former players that once wore the jersey. The No.7 was previously worn by George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and the last vacant of the iconic number 7 was the Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo who not only upped requirements for his potential successor, but also became the best player in the world winning the Ballon d’Or whilst wearing No.7.
Siyanda Neno, a Kaizer Chiefs fan shared with JournalismIziko the pros and cons of retiring a jersey number from a football field.
“The problem with South African football is that we tend to focus too much on past generations rather than building our current and future generations,” said Neno.
Even though this culture is based on good intentions which is to give respect to players, Neno feels that this act of retiring a number undermines players and makes them feel unworthy.
“Both Pirates and Chiefs have had great players in recent years, however, not giving them these numbers showed that we don’t think they are good enough, which in turn affects their morale,” concluded Neno.
Legends like Doctor Khumalo, Jomo Sono and Michael Jordan will always be respected for their fierce flair displayed in their respective sporting codes and it seems the resurrection of their jersey numbers is something that the world is yet to see.