shirt number 10



A tribute to Pele

In the final of the Cup in Qatar, the two main players of Argentina and France, Messi and Mbappé, wore the number 10 shirt. Only one of them was the winner, but both honored the shirt, which is the most revered in the selection of stars.

But it was not always so. Who consecrated the shirt number 10 was Pelé, in the 1958 Cup and then in the 1970. In the 1962, Pelé was injured in the second game against Czechoslovakia and was replaced by Amarildo. In 1966 he was literally hunted by the Portuguese and left the field broken. Brazil ended up eliminated. But in 1970 the “Beasts of Saldanha”, as the selection became known, although the final coach was Zagallo, they gave the change, devastating the opponents. And Pelé did everything, with the number 10 shirt.

Until the 1958 World Cup, the most revered shirt on a team was number 9, the center forward.

The story of Pelé's encounter with the number 10 shirt for the national team – or at least what is told about him – is very original. It was the result of chance. When the then CBD (today CBF) sent the list of Brazilian players to FIFA and the Swedish Federation, it did not define the numbers of their shirts. And whoever received it, not knowing the details of the selection, distributed the numbers somewhat arbitrarily. Until the 1954 World Cup, played in Switzerland, the canonical numbering of the shirts required that the holders had the numbers from 1 to 11, from the goalkeeper to the left end, distributed as follows: 1 (goalkeeper), 2 and 3 (defenders), 4, 5 and 6, midfielders, and 7 to 11 for forwards, from right wing to left wing. The reserves distributed the numbers from 12 to 22, in the same order.

In the 1958 World Cup, the Brazilian numbering subverted everything. The first team, which debuted against Austria, winning by 3 x 0, had the following numbering: goalkeeper, Gilmar, no. 3; Bellini and Orlando (defenders), no. 2 and 15; De Sordi, Dino and Nilton Santos (midfielders), no. 14, 5 and 12; and the forwards, Joel, 17, Didi, 6, Mazzola, 18, Dida, 21, and Zagallo, 7. The substitutes were Castilho (1), goalkeeper; Mauro and Oreco (16 and 8), defenders; Djalma Santos, Zito and Zózimo (4, 19 and 9), middleweights; Garrincha, Moacyr, Vavá, Pelé and Pepe (11, 13, 20, 10 and 22), strikers. This formation went through changes throughout the games, until the consecrated team was established in the final, with Gilmar, Bellini and Orlando; Djalma Santos, Zito and Nilton Santos; Garrincha, Didi, Vavá, Pelé and Zagallo, Pelé with ano. 10. To increase numerical dynamism, at this point, although the announcers, when announcing the teams, followed the order of formation in a “pyramid”, that is, 1; 2 and 3; 4, 5 and 6; 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11, Brazil already played in the formation 4 – 2 – 4, with the variant 4 – 3 – 3, that is, Gilmar, Djalma Santos, Bellini, Orlando and Nilton Santos; Didi and Zito; Garrincha, Vavá, Pelé and Zagallo (sometimes in the middle of the field).

In 1958, Brazil gave six players to the world selection for the event: Djalma Santos (although he had played only one match, the final), Bellini, Nilton Santos, Didi, Garrincha and Pelé. Didi was acclaimed as the best player of the Cup, and called “King”. Pelé was second, also acclaimed as the best young player, as he was 17 years old. The French-Algerian Just Fontaine was the top scorer, with 13 goals, and was third. In previous Cups, the Brazilians Leônidas (1938) and Zizinho (1950) were elected the best players in the Cup, although Brazil did not win the title.

Before Didi, the Brazilian Friedenreich was acclaimed “King” by the French press during a tour of Europe. Leônidas earned the nickname “Black Diamond”, which became the name of a chocolate bar manufactured by Lacta. In 1950 the European press compared the Brazilian Zizinho to Leonardo da Vinci, for his versatility, calling him a “genius”. In Europe, Didi earned the nickname “Mr Football”. In a poll by football experts, Pelé was elected the best player of the 19th century; Didi ranked XNUMXo. place, being the 7o. Brazilian.

Personally, I consider Didi to be the best player I've ever seen play. Pelé was the most complete, doing everything with mastery; he even played in goal if necessary. Decidedly, however, Didi (along with Falcão) was the most elegant. Nelson Rodrigues nicknamed him the “Ethiopian Prince”, and said that when he ran “he wore an ermine mantle on his shoulders”. As for Falcão, he earned the nickname “King of Rome” when he played in Italy (1980 – 1985) and was considered the second best player in the 1982 World Cup.

Although in 1962 the numbering of Brazilian players' jerseys followed the canonical guidelines, from that numbering on in 1958, the attribution of numbers began to vary a lot, until FIFA standardized the numerical distribution, imposing that each player had a defined number, whatever was. And in many teams the numbering has undergone enormous variations, with players assuming extravagant numbers for football, such as 99, 89, 36 and others.

The fact is that from then on, the number 10 shirt was consecrated as the most famous in most teams, from “King Pelé”, thus named from 1970, to Messi and Mbappé, in 2022, passing by Maradona. Pelé also became the eternal King of Shirt 10.

A curiosity. When the 4 – 2 – 4 was installed as the basic formation of the teams, in most of Brazil, the number 8, left midfielder, was the number 10 forward, keeping the number 10, left midfielder in front. In Rio Grande do Sul, the dominant trend in Uruguay and Argentina at that time was followed, with the number 8 retreating and the number XNUMX remaining in the attack. Frontier stuff.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo).


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