Death of Just Fontaine, legend of French football

Just Fontaine died on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday at the age of 89, in Toulouse. The world record holder for goals scored in a World Cup (13) told this anecdote, like a pirouette to avoid answering the question he was asked every day of his life for more than 65 years: “Your record will be did he beat? ” To that, Just Fontaine found a parade smiling: “We are in the year 4000 AD. Archaeologists discover a mummy. It moves: the man inside is still alive. It’s incredible ! When the mummy is finally freed, the first thing she asks: World Cup goalscoring record Just Fontaine was he finally beaten? In 2000 years, if we still play football, it is quite possible that we will still ask this question. And the answer is likely to be “no, still not”.

Because yes, there is at least one record that even Kylian Mbappé will probably never beat. The number of goals scored in a single World Cup. The Bondy prodigy scored eight at the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, which is quite remarkable.

But a player has done better, much better and he is in the pantheon. For eternity, this player is French. During the World Cup in Sweden in 1958, the one that dedicated a young Brazilian named Pelé, he scored 13 goals. Thirteen goals in a single World Cup, no one has ever done better. Over time, Fontaine is no longer the record holder for goals scored in the plural World Cups. But on a single edition, it remains so. His record has stood for 65 years and he is one of those who seems unbeatable. They are rare in sport.

Just Fontaine, Raymond Kopa and Roger Piantoni during the 1959-1960 season at the time of the great Stade de Reims. Presse Sports

The author of this unprecedented feat was therefore called Just Fontaine. “I have always been reduced to this record, he confided. Me however, I never evoked it but one spoke to me about it all the time. »

A career stopped too soon at the age of 28

It bothered him that we forget what a remarkable striker he was. Because he was not only the player of a single tournament the year of the birth of the Fifth Republic. In just 21 caps in a career that ended too soon at the age of 28 due to a serious injury, the former Rémois scored 30 goals in Blue. Do the math: that’s almost 1.5 goals per game. It is enormous.

“I wasn’t the fastest or the best leading player, but I was lucky. I played basketball in my youth and there was nothing better to stand out,” he confided. “Only you know, he also growled, my World Cup record, I would have exchanged it for one thing: to play longer because football was my passion. Unfortunately, I had to stop because of a double tibia fibula fracture. »

At that time, we did not treat trauma: a serious injury and it was over. In the 1950s, unless we were called Raymond Kopa, whom Just Fontaine considered his brother, we didn’t go abroad to play either. Just Fontaine has never worn the colors of a big club like Kopa with Real. He had almost joined Botafogo and Garrincha the auriverde magician in Brazil, but the deal did not happen at the last moment.

The child of Marrakech spotted by the coach of OGC Nice

The fates depend on nothing. That of Just Fontaine is one of them. In another century, he might never have worn the jersey of the France team, which he honored 21 times from 1953 to 1960. He was born in Marrakech on a summer day in 1933. At that time, Morocco is a French protectorate and throughout his life, “Justo” had dual nationality. Even today, a plaque on his birthplace recalls who was born within its walls.

Fontaine is a child of the world, the fruit of the love of a French father who works in a tobacco company and a Spanish mother who had seven children. The kid from the Guéliz district discovered the round ball at home in Marrakech and he was nourished by the exploits of two of the greatest North African players of that time: Larbi Benbarek and Mario Zatelli, the future Marseille coach. It was he who was the first to notice the qualities of little “Justo”, a nickname given by his mother. In 1953, Zatelli was the coach of OGC Nice and he took a 20-year-old young man across the Mediterranean who was still enjoying the heyday of US Marocaine in Casablanca.

That same year 1953, on December 17, Fontaine was selected for the France team. The Blues face Luxembourg, win 8-0 and Just Fontaine scores a hat-trick. This first selection nevertheless remains without a future. The French team which took part in the World Cup in Switzerland in 1954 flew away without him. Instead, he left to do his military service. The “events” in Algeria, as they are modestly called, have just begun. The footballer does not escape the 30 months of requisition.

“I’m the only coach who can say he made PSG rise”

Between two salutes to the flag, Fontaine still wears the colors of Nice and opens his record with a Coupe de France (1954) and a championship title (1956). He joined the Stade de Reims, the famous in 1956 when the France team remembers his good memories. He expanded his record by winning three new titles of champion of France (1968, 1960, 1962), a Coupe de France. He also played in the final of what would later become the Champions League against Real in 1959.

Just Fontaine had managed Johan Cruyff during a friendly tournament when the Dutch star had made a freelance for PSG.
Just Fontaine had managed Johan Cruyff during a friendly tournament when the Dutch star had made a freelance for PSG. DR

After his injury, Just Fontaine cannot leave football. Released major of his promotion in 1962, he embraced the function of trainer. His peers judge him, alas, too young and rare are the proposals. He is still offered a poisoned gift: the France team. He was a short-lived coach for just two games in 1967. “I wasn’t paid so it was easy to fire me after two defeats,” he laughed. It will also be that of Morocco at the end of the 1970s.

For three years from 1973 to 1976, Just was above all the coach of a very young club: Paris Saint-Germain. “I raised the club to the first division in 1974 and I’m the only coach who can say that he raised PSG since since then he has never come down,” he laughed. He was fired because the leaders of the time criticized him for being too close to the players: “I played cards with them. It did not please. A career does not depend on much, ”he repeated. For him, she held on to 13 goals scored in the World Cup.



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