With a kit, a club, and a team inspired and fueled by the city, Atlanta United prides itself on its passionate fan base, diverse culture, and most importantly the voice of the people.
Today, the MLS expansion club officially announced that the number 17 will be reserved and dedicated to the fans.
“The supporters have always been the most important and fundamental aspects of Atlanta United and they’ve been part of the excitement of this journey building the club as we approach the 5th of March, our first-ever game,” said Atlanta United President Darren Eales. “They’re an integral part of the squad so we felt it was only appropriate that they should have a number that is theirs alone.”
Seventeen, signifying 2017, marks the club’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer, a milestone that will not soon be forgotten. With this gesture, Atlanta United aims to recognize that from the very beginning, the fans, the city, and the people define the spirit and essence of this club.
Numbers in the sport of soccer hold a lot of meaning to the players and the fans, and for some players, it’s one of the only pieces they can carry throughout their careers as they hop from one chapter to the next. In many sports, retiring the number of a player symbolizes one of the highest levels of honor and speaks to their valuable impact on the team. So, deeming a number unavailable in order to dedicate it to someone, or in this case, a city of people, is an act of the utmost recognition and respect.
Atlanta’s latest designated player signing, Josef Martinez, has always cherished 17 and feels a certain level of emotional attachment to it, so when initially asked by Atlanta United if he would like a different number, he was a little hesitant. However, after the club explained the concept, he was more than happy to give up 17 for the fans of his new city.
“It’s the number I’ve had since I’ve been a professional,” Martinez said. “It’s really important to me because it’s the number I’ve worn for the Venezuelan National Team from day one.”
Martinez also sported the number 17 at his former club, Torino in Italy’s Serie A, and even has the number 17 tattooed on his neck. While the number is rich in sentiment for him, he knows this is a decision bigger than himself, his teammates, his coaches, or any individual.
“Seventeen may be my favorite number, but it is for the people of Atlanta.”
To some it may seem a minor sacrifice, but anyone who’s a sports fan will understand that this is a selfless act nonetheless.
“That’s a gesture, it’s a small gesture, but it just shows how much Atlanta United, the players, the front office, and our owner Arthur Blank appreciate that our supporters are the lifeblood of the team and it’s nice that we can recognize that number seventeen has been kept special for them,” said Eales.
From the moment the team takes the field in its inaugural year Atlanta United fans will always possess an invaluable piece of their club.
Eales summed up the decision, “It’s our way of acknowledging the unbelievable support we’ve had from the city. To get the number of season ticket holders that we have, the number of fans that are excited about the club and about soccer - they deserve to have their own number that marks this special year.”
Atlanta, 17 is for you.