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Most Absurd Reasons Jersey Numbers Have Been Retired

From outrageous moments on the pitch to sincere tributes, they’re all crazy in their own way.

We all know the ancient tradition of clubs retiring jersey numbers to honor the player who wore it. Most of the time a retired jersey number means the player was a club legend who served for many years, or maybe that player passed away too soon or some other extenuating circumstance. 

Of course there are always exceptions to that rule, and in the exceptions lie the weirdest reasons for retired soccer numbers.

Weirdest Retired Soccer Numbers

Jude Bellingham

One of the recent reasons was in the case of Jude Bellingham. Birmingham City retired the No. 22 after the 17-year-old Bellingham transferred to Borussia Dortmund. Bellingham played one senior season with the club, netted four goals and appeared in 44 Championship matches. It was a short lived career with the club. 

Kobe Bryant

OK so Kobe isn’t a soccer player, but he grew up playing the game and called it his favorite sport — even over basketball. He’s a worldwide icon, not to mention he constantly proved himself to be a friend of women’s soccer. 

As a result of his unfortunate death earlier in 2020, Greek club Athlitiki Enosi Larissa F.C. (aka AEL) decided to permanently retire the No. 24. This one definitely pulls on the heartstrings.

Jean-Robert Menelas

Jean-Robert Menelas played for the Haitian national team in 2000 and for club team Roulado from 1993-2007. He is considered to be the best player in the history of Roulado and one of the best strikers of his generation in Haiti. He scored a total of 158 goals in his time at Roulado, the only club he has ever played for. The club retired his No. 7 jersey, the first in the history of Haitian football that a number would be permanently removed. This one isn’t weird, just amazing.

Jonathan Richter

Jonathan Richter is a Danish midfielder who played for Danish Superliga side FC Nordsjælland. He had to amputate his left leg as a result of being struck by lightning in 2009 while playing a reserve game. The club then decided to retire the No. 26.

Peter Biaksangzuala

Peter Biaksangzuala had his jersey No. 21 retired after he sadly passed away on the pitch — as a result of a goal celebration. The young footballer, age 23, died in intensive care after attempting a somersault to celebrate a goal scored. The midfielder landed awkwardly on his neck, which caused severe spinal cord damage.

Jesús Arellano

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I know I said this was a list of retired jersey numbers, but Jesús Arellano has an odd circumstance. The retired Mexican footballer most known as being a ‘super sub’ for the Mexico national team has asked that his jersey be retired until his son is able to adopt the number. 

Paolo Maldini

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Paolo Maldini is another player like Jesús Arellano in that his number is in retirement until one of his sons can uphold the family legacy. I suppose if none of them want the number there will be serious heartbreak, and then the number would stay in retirement, collecting dust.

Massimo Cellino

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Massimo Cellino is not a player — he’s a chairman. But he forced Leeds to retire the No. 17 because of an Italian superstition that calls the number unlucky. Using this number or referencing it is considered to be a temptation of death, for these reasons.

The number was later reinstated in 2019. Midfielder Helder Costa now bears the unlucky number. We’ll see how true that superstition is.

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