No.88 shirt banned in Serie A: What is the reason behind the number being forbidden in Italy?

Over two decades have passed since Gianluigi Buffon first sparked controversy by wearing the No.88 shirt at Parma. From now on, though, no player in Italian football will wear the number due to its affiliation with anti-Semitism.

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From the 2023/24 season on, no player in Serie A will be seen wearing the no.88 on the back of their shirt, as per a decision taken by the Italian Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Sport and the FIGC – the Italian football association. There is now a ban on the No.88 being worn by players in Italian football.

The ban comes as part of a bigger movement seeking to eliminate anti-Semitism from Italian football, and there will now also be a protocol to follow that could see games be stopped in the event of anti-Semitic chants or displays. The move had been rumoured for some time, but was confirmed on June 27, as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Mario Pasalic, in the no.88 shirt, celebrates with Atalanta teammate Duvan Zapata. (Photo: Getty)

Why did Serie A ban the number 88 shirt?

The no.88 shirt has long been controversial, and it’s not an entirely new thing to see it making headlines. Back in the summer of 2000, then-Parma goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon opted to wear the No.88 on his Gialloblu shirt, though backlash from the Jewish community led to him changing to the No.77 instead.

The reason for the outrage then, and indeed now, is that ’88’ is often used by neo-Nazi groups as a symbol of the ‘heil Hitler’ expression – ‘H’ is the eighth letter of the alphabet.

Italian Minister of the Interior Matteo Piantedosi explained that there is now a “ban on the use of symbols that could recall Nazism,” as well as highlighting the need and “responsibility to use non-discriminatory language in public displays and demonstrations”.

Gabriele Gravina, president of the FIGC, added: “The world of football is united in the fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination. This is yet another reaffirmation of how our sport must always be inclusive and be a driver of positive messages. We cannot concede even an inch on these issues, as football has a direct impact on Italian society.”

Which players have worn the No.88 in Serie A?

Hernanes, in the no.88 shirt, celebrates with former Inter teammate Mauro Icardi. (Photo: Getty)

Gianluigi Buffon is undeniably the highest-profile player to have worn the controversial No.88 shirt in Serie A, albeit more than two decades ago in the early days of his first stint with Parma. He didn’t wear the number for long before changing to the No.77 and issuing a statement to dissociate himself from any form of support for anti-Semitism.

Since Buffon, a number of players have worn the No.88 in Serie A. Former Inter, Juventus and Lazio midfielder Hernanes is one of the higher-profile cases. Marco Borriello and Diego Perotti also had spells with the No.88 on their backs.

In the 2022/23 Serie A season, four players wore the No.88 and they will be the last to do so, with the ban coming into immediate effect.

Mario Pasalic has worn the number since joining Atalanta, Lazio‘s Toma Basic, Hellas Verona‘s Mateusz Praszelik, and Sampdoria‘s Tomas Rincon also wore the No.88 in the 2022/23 campaign.

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