Amsterdam, 18 apr 2007 In honor of the 60ste birthday of Johan Cruijff, today a week from now, the management and council of commissioners of Ajax decided to 'retire' the shirt number 14 for good.
This has announced chairman John Jaakke during a birthdays dinner with the club leadership and Cruijff. With the symbolic transfer of the shirt to Johan Cruijff, 'number 14' will never been given to any player from the first team ever again.
John Jaakke: ,, Johan Cruijff has been of priceless value to Ajax and gave the club it's world-wide reputation.
This practice, long established in the major North American sports, is a recent development in football since squad numbers were not widely used until the 1990s. Before then, it was typical for players in the starting lineup to be issued numbers 1 to 11 by formation/position on a match-by-match basis, and substitutes to be numbered from 12 upwards, meaning a player might wear different numbers during the season if they were to play in different positions for tactical reasons, or be named to the bench.
Retiring a player's number usually occurs after the player has left the team or retired. It honors a player who has meant so much to his club that they retire the shirt number that the player wore during their time there, meaning no other player is permitted to use that number in the future. In some cases, such as Jason Mayélé, Vittorio Mero, Marc-Vivien Foé and Miklós Fehér, numbers have been retired to posthumously honour a player who died in tragic circumstances while still active.
National teams Argentina and Cameroon have been prevented by FIFA rules dealing with squad numbers for Finals tournaments, from retiring the numbers of Diego Maradona (10) and Marc-Vivien Foé (17) respectively, but in other competitions or friendlies national associations may assign numbers according to criteria of their choosing.
Some clubs dedicate a number to their fans, and do not issue it to any player. The most common number for this practice is 12, from descriptions of the fans as the twelfth man. Clubs reserving number 12 for their supporters include Torino, Fenerbahçe, Feyenoord, Hammarby, Lecce, Lens, Malmö, Norwich City, Plymouth Argyle, Portsmouth,Bristol Rovers, Stockport County, Ferencváros, Újpest, Vålerenga, Zenit Saint Petersburg and Cork City F.C.. Reading reserve the number 13 for their supporters, while Panathinaikos reserve this number in honour of Gate 13, the ultras based in the respective gate in home matches.