What do Billy Meredith, Stanley Matthews, Raymond Kopa, Manolo Garrincha, George Best, Allan Simonsen, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, Luis Figo, Raúl González, Andrei Shevchenko, David Villa and Cristiano Ronaldo have in common? Besides all of them being legends of soccer, they have all played a crucial role in making number 7 a mythological shirt number in the history of soccer.
Outside the world of soccer, the number 7 also has a long and glorious history with many meanings that contribute to making the number loaded with references and connotations on the soccer pitch. There are the Seven Hills of Rome and Rome’s seven emperors, and preceding the Roman heyday there was, in Greek mythology, Seven against Thebes, adapted and immortalized in dramatic form by both Aischylos and Euripides. There was also the Seven Wonders of the World. In addition, we refer to the Seven Seas, and with the naked eye humans are capable of seeing seven planets. As some will know, water’s pH value is 7. Seven is supposedly also the amount of hours that humans need for their optimal sleep.
However, it is in the religious sphere that the number 7 draws the majority of its symbolic potential. In Judaism, the number is associated with the spirituality and divinity that was blown into Creation. The seventh day is Sabbath and day of rest and repose in Judaism and Christianity respectively, and in the latter religion the very act of creation – Genesis – lasted seven days. We also speak of the seven good and the seven bad years. There are even seven cardinal virtues and seven cardinal sins. Apart from that, the number 7 generally refers to perfection within the Christian faith. In Islam, there are seven doors to the seven earths and seven heavens, and in Buddhism Buddha walked seven steps when he was born. The superstitious believe that a broken mirror is followed by seven years with bad luck.
In popular culture, most people know the agent “double o seven,” agent 007, alias James Bond, and many remember the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe’s dress in the movie The Seven Year Itch. There is also Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurais and John Sturges’s American version of Kurosawa’s Japanese movie, The Magnificent Seven. Or Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. In 1849, the English intellectual John Ruskin published The Seven Lamps of Architecture and two years later came Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables.