After the tragic – to the ridiculous. A classic vision of a football player: clean front of the jersey, displaying a small club emblem on the left or right breast. On the back- big number, telling everybody the player’s post. Some teams have numbers on the front of their shorts, but not every team. Socks display no numbers. Of course, I am not speaking of contemporary look – individual numbers, imprinted name of the player, numbers in front as well, numbers on the shorts. Numbers were plain affair ‘classically’, and they were plain because originally they did not exist. If I am not mistaken, numbers became obligatory around 1939. Nobody remembered numberless teams by 1971, numbers were taken for granted, but there was till at least one leftover of the old days: Celtic (Glasgow) played without shirt numbers – they had numbers only on the shorts, but on both sides, probably to satisfy regulations, however minimally, without giving up tradition. On the other hand, Leeds United went into excess – they had numbers on their socks around 1975. Numbers on the front of shorts were mandatory in the World Cup 1974, but, in general, only numbers on the back of the shirts were required for a long time.
Celtic-Ajax 1-0, first leg ¼ finals of European Champions Cup in 1971. No numbers on Celtic jerseys – exotic, stubborn, loveable traditionalism. In sharp contrast, Ajax already played with individual numbers. Guess who won at the end.