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The Guardian

Lucien Laurent

French footballer who scored the first World Cup goal
Brian Glanville
Thursday April 14, 2005


Lucien Laurent scored the first goal at the inaugural World Cup finals
on July 13 1930, in Montevideo, for France against Mexico. Sixty-eight
years later, at the age of 90, he was the last survivor of that French
team, and able to attend the World Cup finals, which France won on
their own soil.

He was still lively, lucid and cogent, with a very clear memory of
what went on before and during that initial World Cup. Indeed, had he
not been injured by a brutal foul from the Argentinian centre-half,
Luisito Monti, early in France's second game against a team that
narrowly won 1-0, the French might well have made further progress.
There were no substitutes in those days, and Laurent's ankle injury
reduced him to being a passenger.

Laurent, who has died aged 97, was born in Saint Maur, in the Val de
Marne, one of two brothers who both played for France. Jean, the
elder, also went to Montevideo, but he did not get a game. Lucien's
first club was CAP (Cercle Athlétique de Paris), which he joined as a
boy in 1921, remaining with them for nine years. An inside-right, he
was 1.62m tall, weighing just 65kg; an advantage, he would joke in his
old age, when he, the rest of the French team and several other
European squads were all crammed into the ship that took them to
Uruguay.

By then, he had recently transferred to the club then known as Peugeot
Sochaux, subsidised by the Peugeot factory where he worked.

He was given time off to play in the World Cup, but was not paid while
away. Indeed, as an amateur he received only basic expenses from the
French Federation. Three other players from Peugeot made the trip,
Lucien's brother, Etienne Mattler and André Maschinot.

In those days, it took three weeks to reach South America from Europe,
a fact that discouraged the big European battalions - Austria,
Hungary, Italy and Spain - from making the trip.

Laurent, however, enjoyed it immensely. There was plenty to do on the
boat, which included among its passengers the Belgian, Romanian and
Yugoslav squads. The French trained in the morning, were entertained
by a violinist and a comedian, and Laurent spent much of his time in
the cinema or in the swimming pool. "It was like a holiday camp," he
said.

His great regret was that, in Montevideo itself, he could not play in
the imposing new Centenary stadium. It had not yet been finished and
earlier matches took place on club grounds.

It was winter in Uruguay, and on the day of the opening match against
Mexico, it was snowing. A long clearance by the agile French
goalkeeper, Alex Thépot, was controlled by Chantrel, who launched the
right-winger, Liberati. Down to the goal line Liberati dashed, to pull
back a ball which Laurent, on the edge of the penalty box, struck home
with his right foot. France went on to win 4-1.

Against Argentina, the French were the underdogs, but despite Monti's
ugly foul on Laurent, the French grew in confidence as the game went
on, ultimately conceding the solitary goal from Monti's free kick
after 81 minutes. Three minutes later, the referee mistakenly blew for
full time. But the referee, Rego of Brazil, acknowledged his error,
the disconcerted French returned from their dressing room and the
final minutes were, after a quarter hour hiatus, played out.

Injury kept Laurent out of France's third match, against Chile. He
played 10 times for France, scoring twice. His debut was against
Portugal in Porto in February 1930, when the French lost 2-0. In May,
his brother Jean played three successive games for France at
right-half, in which Lucien didn't figure, only to regain his place in
the opening World Cup match against Mexico; without Jean. Lucien then
played the following March in a 1-0 win at the Stade Colombes in Paris
against Germany.

On May 13 1931, Laurent was a member of the French team that thrashed England, 5-2. On April 10 1932 he played against Italy, at Colombes, when he was at inside-left in a French team beaten 2-1.

Laurent was recalled to the colours for his final cap as late as May
19 1935, when - at Colombes again - he was once more inside-left in a
2-0 victory over the Hungarians.

His clubs were many and various. After two years at Sochaux, he went
to the long defunct Club Français for a year, back to CAP for another
and, for a season each, to Mulhouse, Sochaux and Rennes.

He went to Strasbourg in 1937-38, but early in the second world war he
was taken prisoner and put in a camp in Saxony.

On his return, he found that the possessions he had placed in a
furniture depository in Strasbourg had been stolen by the Germans,
including his 1930 World Cup jersey.

"Happily," he said, in 1998, "all my memories were there, well
established in a corner of my old head. No one can steal those from
me."

He looked back, then, on the day when he was ball boy at the old
Pershing stadium at Vincennes, when France beat Belgium 2-1, and his
heroes, Paul Nicolas, "the great", and Lucien Gamblin were all
playing.

He had a son, Marc.

· Lucian Laurent, footballer, born December 10 1907; died April 11
2005

RIP
 

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