Numbers have always been fascinating for the human beings.
Since ancient times, a magic meaning was attributed to the symbols representing numbers before the Arabic numbering was adopted as a worldwide system.
Some numbers are deemed to be lucky, sacred or full of meaning.
Others enjoy a worst reputation as disgraceful numbers.
Numbering in football is documented to have appeared for the first time in 1924 and, you will be surprised, it happened in an association football game in the US, not in Europe.
It was a Fall River Marksmen vs. St.Louis Vesper Buick game in the 1923-24 National Challenge Cup, nowadays known as Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the US oldest football competition.
Americans are pragmatic people and they understood it was more tidy to have those 11 men all numbered from 1 (the goalkeeper) to 11 (one of the two outside forward).
It took four years for the numbering to appear in Europe and it happened in the 1928 when Sheffield Wednesday played Arsenal and Chelsea hosted Swansea Town.
Almost a century has passed since the ‘Roaring Twenties’ and numbers are no longer associated with the on-field positions.
As it is fashion in the American sports (they brought them in, they set the trend) the mandatory 1-to-11 numbering tied with a position was abandoned.
It all started in the English top-flight football in 1993 and little by little, all countries adopted the new system.
In 1999, seeking the commercial potential from kits sales, the English FA gave the possibility to choose numbers from 1 to 99. In Spain there is still a limit to numbering as players can choose from 1 to 25 and 26 to 50 series is reserved to…the reserve team members.
The fashion of wearing numbers from 1 to 99 has also spread to the Estonian Premium Liiga and we will check what are the main curiosities
GOALKEEPERS, BECAUSE 1, 12 AND 22 ARE TOO PREDICTABLE
In football goalkeepers have always represented ‘a band apart’.
If an on-field player makes a mistake, it’s a team mistake.
If the goalkeeper makes a blunder, it’s a goal for the opponent.
The goalkeeper is alone on the pitch.
He is the last hope for a team to avoid a goal.
Most of the many odd personalities that have inhabited the football realm, they have been goalkeepers.
Since the extended numbering has been introduced, some goalkeepers have given vent to their tastes and chosen various numbers off the 1-12-22 track (in Spain they are mandatorily 1, 13 and 25).
Premium Liiga makes to exception.
What do Richard Aland (Nõmme Kalju and U-21 goalkeeper) and Ilja Kassantchuk (FC Infonet) have in common, apart from being shot stoppers?
They both chose the fearful symmetry of the number 69, with all the hilarious implications the number brings along.
Another set of goalkeepers, Stanislav Prins (Flora) and Nikita Tokajchuk (Narva Trans) have gone for Jesus Christ’s age at time of death: 33, are they relying on a divine help?
A quite reasonable choice it seems the one made by Kalev Tallinn goal guardian, Danil Savitsky: he was born on the 4th of May 1989 and he opted for the number 89 on the back of his red goalie kit.
Artjom Levizi (Sillamäe Kalev) is a 21-year-old shot stopper born in St.Petersburg, however he chose a number 16
In Ida-Virumaa newly promoted side, Lokomotiv Jõhvi, the reserve goalkeepers have gone off the track set by the start, Panfilov (nr.1): Smelkov opted for nr. 28 whereas Matrossov asked for nr. 48.
However, the weirdest number of the lot in the goalkeeper compartment, it is the one chosen by Flora start, Mait Toom: 73
He did not make a fuss when forward Sander Post took his 12, and he opted to take the number left by Karl-Eerik Luigend (who took nr.38).
A real valzer of numbers.
DEFENDING THE EXCEPTIONS
In the 1-to-11 tradition, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 have been the numbers designating the defensive line.
6 has been worn by an authentic legend as the ‘libero’ par excellence, Franco Baresi.
The number 5 recalls Franz ‘Kaiser’ Beckenbauer, the leader of Bayern München and Mannschaft in the ’60’s-´70’s (a spell also at New York Cosmos where he wore the nr.6)
How the Premium Liiga defenders behaved in choosing their numbers?
In Nõmme Kalju, the central defenders chose ‘regular’ ones: the Captain, Alo Bärengrub, chose 5; the returning-to-Estonia international, Mikk Reintam, took 4; and the Portuguese Jorge Rodrigues, kept the 6 he had already last season.
Eccentricity is on the full-back positions: Ken Kallaste (left) chose the 14, Tihhon Śiśov (right) the 77.
Hindrek Ojamaa, brother of Legia’s Henrik, opted for a 24.
Same pattern for the Estonian Champions, Levadia: whereas the central defenders are quite regular (Artjunin 3 and Ukrainian Voltśkov 2, exception is Jahhimovitś opting for a Pirloesque 21) full backs have gone over the 11 as Podholjuzin took 17, and Kulinits 19.
In Sillamäe only Lithuanian Baguźis goes off the track with 26.
Junolainen (15) and Jürgenson (16) are the Flora defenders with 'odd' numbers.
In Paide the only white flies with ‘normal’ numbers are Veis (2) and Lomp (5).
In FC Infonet Danilin must be a fan of either Michael Jordan or Marco Materazzi, as he chose the nr. 23, for years on the back of the popular basketball player and the 2006 World Champion.
The oldest player of the Premium Liiga, Stanislav Kitto (Narva Trans) has a 15 on the back and the only American player, Sean Tremaine Whalen (Kalev Tallinn) has chosen the 20.
A special mention for defenders with goalkeeper aspirations: Artur Pikk (Levadia) and Nikita Baranov (Flora) picked up nr. 22
THE UNTOUCHABLE 13
The number 13 carries the fame of an unlucky number.
In the US there are no floors number 13 and in Italy it is considered a sign of bad luck (especially when associated with a Friday on the calendar as in many other parts of the world).
Such superstitious choices have not prevented some players from choosing the infamous number to accompany their careers.
One of the most notable example from top European football is former SS Lazio and AC Milan, defender Alessandro Nesta.
Obviously one might object his career was blighted by injuries, however ‘Sandro’ won a lot with this number on his back: 3 ‘scudetto’ (Italian title) 2 Champions League and many more international and national trophies.
Who opted to be brave and defy superstition? The list is very short as in certain squad no one has taken the deadly combo.
‘Brave Prize’ goes to Martin Vunk (MF, Nõmme Kalju), Andre Mägi (DF, Paide Linnameeskond), Vladislav Fjodorov (FW, Narva Trans), Oliver Heliste (DF, Kalev Tallinn) and Jürgen Lorenz (DF, Tammeka).
Now, they can obviously touch wood.
Let’s be honest, when comes to numbers in football, the most messianic and inspiring combo is one and zero: 10
There is no need to mention a list of legendary players who wore this magic association as already one or more icons have flashed in our mind.
However, sometimes, this number has been too heavy on the back of some wannabe stars.
Danil Ratnikov (Sillamäe), Allan Kimbaloula (Nõmme Kalju), Igor Subbotin (Levadia), Reio Laabus (Tammeka), Lauri Välja (Kalev Tallinn), Artjom Skinjov (Narva Trans) Jevgeni Gurtsioglujants (FC Infonet) and Brent Lepistu (Flora) have made a statement and chosen the magic number.
In Lokomotiv Jõhvi and Paide Linnameeskond, no one felt to take on the burden.
The highest number possible
Considering the rules allow to choose up to 99, three players have taken the chance to put the double nine on the back of their jerseys: Tarmo Neemelo (Nõmme Kalju), Albert Prosa (Flora) and Evgeni Kabaev (Sillamäe Kalev).
No need to mention, they are all centre forwards.
All the 10 clubs squads are available in our 'Speciale Premium Liiga 2014'