Just Fontaine, Record-Setting French Soccer Star, Dies at 89
Just Fontaine, the French soccer star who scored a record 13 goals at the 1958 World Cup, died on Wednesday. He was 89.
Fontaine’s former club Reims and the French soccer federation announced his death, but did not say where he died or cite a cause.
Fontaine took six games to achieve his feat at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, when he was a last-minute inclusion on the French squad.
Entering the tournament, Fontaine, a forward, was little known outside the French league. Yet he tormented opponents with his speed and finishing touch, even though had to borrow a pair of cleats after damaging his own boots in practice.
Fontaine scored four goals in the third-place game against West Germany, and he could have had five if he had taken the penalty kick.
In addition to his feats with the national team, Fontaine won the French league title four times, won the French Cup and reached the final of the 1959 European Cup during his career with Casablanca, Nice and Reims.
The French soccer federation said there would be tributes to Fontaine across France this weekend, with a “minute of homage” that will also be observed on Wednesday before French Cup games at Toulouse, Marseille and Nantes.
The highest scorer at a World Cup tournament is now acknowledged with the Golden Boot award. FIFA did not begin presenting that award until after Fontaine set the record.
“Beating my record? I don’t think it can ever be done,” Fontaine told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. “The person who wants to beat me has a massive task, doesn’t he? He has to score two goals per game over seven games.”
Playing in the days when no substitutions were allowed, France lost in the semifinals, 5-2, to a Brazil team featuring the 17-year-old Pelé.
The men’s record for most goals scored in a World Cup career is 16, by the Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who played in four tournaments. Fontaine, who broke the record of 11 goals scored by the Hungary striker Sandor Kocsis at the 1954 tournament, played in only one World Cup.
The Brazil striker Marta has scored 17 goals in five Women’s World Cup tournaments.
Fontaine scored 200 goals in 213 games, including 30 goals in 21 games for France. But his career was cut short when he was only 28.
Renowned for his lightning pace and ruthless finishing, Fontaine suffered a serious leg fracture after a mistimed tackle in March 1960. He retired as a player just after his 29th birthday. He briefly coached France’s national team before going on to coach Luchon, Paris Saint-Germain, Toulouse and the Moroccan national team.
Just Fontaine was born in Marrakesh, Morocco, on Aug. 18, 1933. Information on survivors was not immediately available.