JOSEPH EDOUARD GAETJENS
(1924 – 1964)
“One of the biggest shocks in World Cup history happened in 1950, when the US beat England, thanks to a goal scored by Haitian Joe Gaetjens.” – BBC News
Joseph Edouard Gaetjens was a Haitian soccer player who played for the United States national team in the 1950 FIFA World Cup, where he scored the winning goal in the 1–0 upset of England.
Gaetjens was born in Port-au-Prince in 1924. By the age of 14, he was signed to the Etoile Haïtienne team where he became known for his goal-scoring headers, and with whom he won national championships in 1942 and 1944. Three years later, he accepted a scholarship to study accounting at Columbia University in New York, where he played for the Brookhattan Football Club and eventually led the American Soccer League in scoring.
Gaetjens secured a spot on the 1950 World Cup squad of his adopted country to represent the U.S. in Brazil. They were set to play England, the overwhelming favorite. About 40 minutes in, Gaetjens’ charging forehead sent the ball past England’s keeper to score the only goal of the match. After the goal, there was instant fame for Gaetjens and he pursued a professional soccer career in France before returning to Port-au-Prince in 1954. There, he settled down with his new wife, opened a small dry cleaning business and resumed his spot on Etoile Haïtienne.
Ten years later, there were reports that Gaetjens was thrust into the back seat of a car with a gun pressed to the back of his head, never to be seen again. His disappearance is believed to have been orchestrated by the Duvalier regime.