…the 1930 World Cup, that is.
In the inaugural world cup, held in Uruguay in 1930, U.S. National Team player Bert Patenaude scored the first-ever hat trick (that’s three goals in one game). His grandson, also named Bert Patenaude, is our author, a Hoover Fellow at Stanford University and the author of, most recently, TROTSKY: Downfall of a Revolutionary (HarperCollins).
Bert Patenaude is in the center of the front row
Until recently, Patenaude’s feat had never been officially acknowledged or honored by FIFA. The problem was that a better-known player, from a markedly better team, also scored a hat trick in the 1930 World Cup. That was Argentina’s Guillermo Stábile, who scored a few days after Patenaude in a 6-3 defeat of Mexico. For the next 76 years he was celebrated as the man with the first World Cup hat trick.
News of Patenaude’s goals didn’t travel too far or too wide at the time. No U.S. journalists were even present at the game. And not only that, those who were paying attention weren’t in agreement that Patenaude was the goal-scorer–because players’ jerseys didn’t have their numbers, the identity of the scorer wasn’t always observed or reordered correctly.
But in 2006 historian Colin Jose set the record straight, sending diagrams of the three goals to FIFA and receiving a reply: you’re right, it was Patenaude.
As written in a great Sports Illustrated piece, The 10 Most Significant Goals In U.S. Soccer History, by Brian Straus:
On Nov. 10, 2006—76 years after the fact—FIFA announced that Patenaude, not Stábile, had scored the first World Cup hat trick. It cited “evidence from various historians and football fans, as well as lengthy research and confirmation from the U.S. Soccer Federation,” as drivers of the decision.
Alas, after the win over Paraguay (that Patenaude’s hat trick helped secure), the Americans were bested 6-1 by Argentina in the semifinal. (Painful shades of yesterday’s Brazil-Germany match, perhaps..). But today the U.S. soccer legacy can stand proud behind the fact we had the first hat trick in World Cup history, 84 years ago.
Patenaude was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1971 and was the USA’s all-time leading World Cup scorer for 80 years. Landon Donovan surpassed him in 2010.
Whomever you’re rooting for today, enjoy the game, and: Remember Patenaude!