World Cup History: The forgotten man who scored the first goal
Lucien Laurent, who had travelled to the World Cup in 1934 on a boat for two weeks along with opponents Belgium and Romania, had no idea what he'd started when he struck a 19th minute first-time shot into the net.
As part of our build-up to the 2014 edition, this feature is the first of our FIFA World Cup History series which will chart the most special moments from previous tournaments.
Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Andres Iniesta, Fabio Grosso, Pele, Maradona and even Papa Bouba Diop — we all know them for scoring the first or last goal of a FIFA World Cup. But there's one man whose goal kicked off all the frenzy and has somehow managed to fly under the football buff's radar for 84 years.
Lucien Laurent, who had travelled to the World Cup in 1934 on a boat for two weeks along with opponents Belgium and Romania, had no idea what he'd started when he struck a 19th minute first-time shot into the net against Mexico after right winger Ernest Liberati had pulled it back from the goal-line following centre-back Chantrel's long ball.
That was on 13 July, 1930 and since then, the World Cup has gone from a fledgling 13-team tournament to a 32-team extravaganza viewed by millions around the world and generating billions in revenue for FIFA.
"Of course, back then I couldn't have imagined the significance the goal would have. We didn't even know the World Cup would last. I remember when I got home, there was just a tiny mention in one of the papers. Soccer was in its infancy," Laurent reminisced in an interview.
Laurent had been allowed to play for his country, but a footballer's life was far from what it is today: "We went to Uruguay by ship. It took us two weeks and we had a training session on deck every morning, then ran on the spot in the afternoon," Laurent said. Like many others, he was given leave by his company Peugeot — but it was unpaid. Even the French Football Federation paid only minimal expenses to the team.
France was knocked out of the tournament in bizarre circumstances after Argentina were leading Brazil 1-0 and the referee blew for full time six minutes from time. The players came back to play the remaining time but Brazil's concentration was lost by then and France needed them to get a result.
Laurent could not play in the final game of the French campaign after getting injured against Argentina. However, he would witness his nation lift the trophy. The journeyman striker — who played for clubs like CAP, Club Francais, Mulhouse, Sochaux Rennes and Strasbourg was present when France thrashed Brazil to lift the cup in 1998.
Laurent had spent three years as a prisoner of war when he was taken captive in Saxony by the Germans (they also stole his 1930 WC jersey) — but maintained his health by keeping in touch with the beautiful game till the age of 86 — playing a weekly pickup game in his hometown.
"All my memories were there, well established in a corner of my old head. No one can steal those from me," he said after the 1998 World Cup final.
From scoring the World Cup's first goal to surviving as a prisoner of war and becoming the only surviving member of the 1930 French team to see France win the 1998 World Cup on home soil — Laurent truly lived the game.
Lucien Laurent passed away on 22 April, 2005 at the age of 97. He made 10 appearances for France, scoring twice.
World Cup 1930
Champions: Uruguay (4-2 vs Argentina in final)
Top scorer: Guillermo Stábile (eight goals)
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