Retiring shirt numbers is not a widely practiced trend in the world of football. But when it does happen, it happens for good reason. It is generally done by clubs to recognize a player’s loyalty towards the club, but sometimes it is a way of memorializing, after the sudden death of a player.
Retiring a jersey number was mainly practiced in North America, but after the 1990s, many football clubs have started to retire particular jersey numbers in honour of the players.
Recently, the footballing world was shocked when Argentine striker Emiliano Sala died in a plane crash while travelling from France to Britain. Sala had just completed his move from French side Nantes to Premier League club Cardiff City for a record deal.
His chartered plane lost contact with the ATC after taking off. Sala was officially declared dead on the 8th of February when the authorities found the wreckage of his jet along with his body.
French side Nantes have since decided to retire Sala's jersey number 9 from the club. Nantes is not the only club which has retired a jersey number after the death of a player.
Here are three other major incidents where the club decided to retire the jersey number in honour of the player who passed away.
#3 Marc-Vivien Foé (23, Lyon, Manchester City, and RC Lens)
Marc-Vivien Foé was part of the Cameroon squad that played in the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup. On 26th June 2003, Cameroon faced Colombia in the group stages of the Confederations Cup. In the 72nd minute of the match, Foé collapsed in the center circle and later died in hospital. The hospital authorities later revealed that Foe had a rare heart condition called ‘cardiomyopathy hypertrophia’.
The sudden death of the 28-year-old in the middle of the match shook the whole footballing world. French star Thierry Henry celebrated his goal by pointing up towards the sky after scoring against Egypt.
At the time of his death, Foe was playing for Manchester City, on loan from Lyon. His parent club Lyon, current club Manchester City, and childhood club Lens decided to retire his jersey number 23 permanently. Later, Cameroon International Jean Makoun wore Foe's jersey number while playing for Lyon in remembrance of his friend.