Usually you can not see any other player with number 1 except goalkeeper. I've never seen forward with number 2,3,4,5 or 6.

So, how numbers are assigned to players?

All I could find out was that this is just a tradition. But no information about how this tradition was formed. Have there been any historical fact of giving numbers in order from 1 to 11 to players from goalkeeper to forward, for example according to a law of game from FIFA or something...

  • 1
    I seem to remember in the 1978 World Cup, Argentina numbered their players alphabetically, meaning midfielder Ossie Ardiles got the number 1 shirt. That looked very odd.
    – chimp
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 7:00
  • 1
    Some strange numbers are sometimes used. Iván Zamorano's shirt number for Inter was "1+8", for example! The numbering dates back to the old 2-3-5 formation. Over time, as players moved position from the 2-3-5, they kept their traditional numbers. It's also the reason for some of the names of the positions of players, like "fullback".
    – Zorawar
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 1:21
  • Sometimes you do see odd numbers. Off the top of my head, Toquero, a center forward, wore #2 at Athletic Bilbao because that was the only available number when he arrived; Davids, a midfielder chose to wore #1 at Barnet because he's cool like that. Some Italian goalkeeper whose name escapes me wore #7 also because he was cool like that.
    – Koldito
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 11:12

1 Answer 1


The source of my answer defies summarisation, but in this answer I'll put the current convention. I really suggest reading the source (hopefully still available when you read this) for an interesting history.

Now many teams have adopted following convention for assigning numbers as per player positions.

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"The Bizarre History of Football Shirt Numbers" by Akshay Mhaskar

Apparently, the numbers were used in football for the first time in 1928, in a match between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal. The current, but far from always adopted, convention resembles the then allocation.

NB: For the World Cup 2014, the only rules are that the number 1 must be reserved for one of the keepers and that players are only allocated the numbers 1-23. But note that each competition has specific rules.

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