The year I got interested in shirt numbers was 1996. During the European Championship Football in England, the German team showed up with exceptional shirt numbers. They were a revelation among the many angular and extra bold numbers on the shirts of the other teams. It was difficult to figure out which typeface was used in this case. Finally, in February 2004, when I was writing a booklet about shirt numbers and studying photographs from the 1996 tournament, I once more nosed through the Font Book and there it was: Footlight. This typeface by the Malaysian designer Ong Chong Wah was published in 1986. It has a very personal character thanks to the firm serifs and the diagonal drawing axe (watch the zero!). The 6 —and 9— has a small 'eye'. For me these shirt numbers were a real eye opener. They made me aware that shirt numbers are an important element that determines the appearance of a team. And I observed that the legibility of these numbers on the tv screen was excellent. I don't know who decided to use these idiosyncratic figures on the German shirts, but it must have been someone with an open mind and a typographic eye.
Figures from Footlight, the typeface used by the German Football team in 1996.