Bert Patenaude

Football's Pioneers: Bert Patenaude

Professor Matt Taylor - from De Montfort University’s International Centre for Sports History & Culture - recalls Bert Patenaude, who scored the first World Cup hat-trick.
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Who scored the first World Cup finals hat-track? Until 2006, it was thought to be the great Argentine striker Guillermo Stabile, who got his goals in a 6-3 victory over Mexico during the first men’s competition in 1930, hosted by Uruguay. Two days earlier, however, a 20-year old American called Bert Patenaude had scored in the 10th and 50th minutes against Paraguay. Another goal, in the 15th minute, was also awarded to Patenaude in the US association’s report but FIFA’s official report contended that it had been scored by his team-mate Tom Florie.

It took the detective work of American soccer historian Colin Jose, who found interviews with US players and match reports in the South American press that claimed Patenaude had scored all three goals, to change FIFA’s mind. Some 76 years after the tournament had taken place, and over 30 years after his death, the second goal was officially attributed to Patenaude.

Patenaude was born in 1909 in Fall River, an industrial town in Massachusetts, that was to become a hub of US soccer between the wars. He signed a contract with the Philadelphia Field Club in 1928 in the American Soccer League (ASL), at the time probably one of the most competitive professional competitions in the world.

Although he turned out for a number of ASL clubs, it was with his hometown Fall River Marksmen that Patenaude earned a reputation as a prolific goalscorer. Netting 112 goals (from 114 appearances) over four years, he helped the Marksmen to three ASL titles and two National Challenge Cups. With the collapse of the ASL, Patenaude played for a number of teams in Philadelphia and St. Louis, winning his final National Challenge Cup with St. Louis Central Breweries in 1935.

But it was those weeks in Uruguay for which Patenaude is best remembered. As well as his hat-trick against 1929 Copa America runners-up Paraguay, Patenaude netted once against Belgium, although he found the way to goal blocked by a tough Argentine defence in a 6-1 semi-final defeat. He was named in the FIFA Team of the Tournament, while his four goals remain the most scored by a US men’s player in a single World Cup.        

After retiring from soccer, Patenaude worked as a painter and carpenter in Fall River. He was inducted into the US National Soccer Hall of Fame in 1971 and remains a symbol of the important role played by the United States in the early development of international football. 

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