Though he viewed it wryly, his feat, unachievable for modern attackers, seems forever frozen in time. Record holder of goals scored in a single World Cup final phase with thirteen achievements in 1958, former French international Just Fontaine died on 1er March, at the age of 89.
The prowess of “Justo” is all the more striking in the light of the brevity of his career. The player began his professional career in July 1953 and gave up pursuing it on the 1er January 1961, following a double fracture. He was then 27 years old. In July 1962, he played his last match and thus formalized the end of a career that lasted less than a decade.
Born August 18, 1933 in Marrakech, he lived a fulfilling childhood in this Morocco then under French protectorate. Son of a civil servant at the Régie des Tabacs and a housewife taking care of her seven children, Just Fontaine distinguished himself during his studies by his lack of discipline, and was notably expelled from his high school. It was at the prestigious Lyautey establishment in Casablanca that he finally obtained his baccalaureate.
The one who catapulted his first balloons into a church courtyard joined the Moroccan US club in 1950. With a title of North African champion, Just Fontaine was spotted by one of his idols, the French international Mario Zatelli, and was hired in 1953 by OGC Nice. With the Aiglons, the young man scored 44 goals in three seasons and notably won the Coupe de France in 1954 and the championship in 1956.
Often successful with the Riviera club, the prolific striker is overtaken by the crisis in Algeria. For thirty months, Just Fontaine did his military service in the Joinville battalion, only returning to his training on the eve of the meetings. Before being demobilized, he had joined the Stade de Reims at the dawn of the 1956-1957 season. His arrival in Champagne coincides with the transfer of idol Raymond Kopa to Real Madrid. In six seasons, Just Fontaine scored 122 goals, becoming the top scorer in the history of Stade de Reims. At the top of the Champagne attack, he finished at the top of the championship scorers’ rankings in 1958 and 1960.
The Reims epic of Just Fontaine corresponds to his prosperous years with the France team. The native of Marrakech knows his first selection with the Blues during a match against Luxembourg, December 17, 1953. While the IVe République is about to disappear with the return of Charles de Gaulle to power, the French team begins, in May 1958, an internship in Kopparberg in order to prepare for the World Cup organized in Sweden.
Refining its automatisms in a bucolic atmosphere, the training of coach Albert Batteux however comes up against the indifference of the French public. Barely two hundred French supporters traveled to Scandinavian soil. The elimination of the Blues in the first round of the 1954 World Cup is the cause of this crisis of confidence in the selection.
“The Blues were my only passion. In 1960, injuries forced me to retire from international football. It was heartbreaking. » Just Fontaine
Taking advantage of the injury of René Bliard, the usual center-forward holder, Just Fontaine began the competition by scoring three times, on June 8, against Paraguay (7-3). “Justo” scored twice on June 11 during France-Yugoslavia (2-3) then a new goal, four days later, against Scotland (2-1). Author of two achievements, on June 19, in the quarter-finals against Ireland (4-0), the Reims striker scored again during the epic semi-final loss (2-5), against the Brazil of Pelé, by the Blues diminished by the injury of Roger Jonquet.
After having acquired an unexpected third place against the Federal Republic of Germany (6-3), the Blues celebrate, on June 28, their providential scorer, author of a quadruple during this match and crowned with the title of best gunner of the test with thirteen achievements. During the match against FRG, “Justo” showed his indifference to statistical data when, on the 27the minute of the match, he let Raymond Kopa shoot and score a penalty. At this moment of the game, Just Fontaine had not yet exceeded the record of eleven goals scored by the Hungarian Sandor Kocsis in 1954.
1er July, the one who constitutes the magic triplet of the Blues with Roger Piantoni and Raymond Kopa is welcomed triumphantly at Orly airport. In front of the euphoric crowd, he then raises the shotgun which rewarded the best pyrotechnician of the tournament. Back at the Stade de Reims, Just Fontaine postpones his transfer to Espanyol from Barcelona for a season. But his Champagne adventure came to an abrupt end on March 20, 1960 when the player suffered a double fracture in his left leg in Sochaux. His relapse, less than a year later, de facto marks the end of his career.
In 1961, Just Fontaine created the first players’ union, the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP). The birth of this organization takes place at a time when players could be sold according to the moods of their leaders. Just Fontaine’s activism led in 1972 to the creation of a time-limited contract for footballers.
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Major of the promotion of coaches in 1962, the former international assumed managerial duties by becoming, the time of two defeats, the fleeting coach of the France team in 1967. From 1973 to 1976, he was also coach of PSG before taking the reins, on the appointment of King Hassan II, of the Moroccan selection (1979-1981).
Residing in Toulouse, Just Fontaine received abundant correspondence from all over the world. For thirty years, he had become an expert in commercial relations. Invited as a speaker by large companies, he owned several sporting goods stores based in Haute-Garonne.
Fourth best gunner of all time in the World Cup, he ended up seeing his record surpassed by the Germans Miroslav Klose (16 goals in four finals), Gerd Müller (14 goals in two editions) and the Brazilian Ronaldo (15 goals in three entries).
Icon of the Stade de Reims, Just Fontaine has always actively supported the flagship team of the Marne. In November 2011, he was invited to parade, along with Raymond Kopa (who died in 2017), on the lawn of the Auguste-Delaune stadium to celebrate the club’s rise in Ligue 1.
Scorer thirty times in just 21 selections, Just Fontaine has constantly defended the heritage of the France team. “ If my record for goals scored during the 1958 World Cup is set in stone, it’s thanks to the France team, he confided to World in October 2010. The Blues were my only passion. In 1960, injuries forced me to retire from international football. It was heartbreaking. »
Received at the headquarters of the Blues, in Clairefontaine (Yvelines), as a “great witness” by coach Laurent Blanc, Just Fontaine had the opportunity, in March 2011, to express his attachment to the tricolor jersey in front of his successors.
“The disappearance of Just Fontaine saddens me, as it will inevitably sadden all those who love football and our national team, reacted the coach of the France team, Didier Deschamps. Justo is and will remain a legend of the French team. Players then coach, I had the chance to meet him several times. Especially at home, in Toulouse, in September 2017. Justo was a man of great kindness, very respectful of the generations who succeeded his with the Blues. »