Joseph “Joe” Gaetjens

The scorer of  the most famous goal in American soccer history, the one that beat England in the 1950 World Cup in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Gaetjens, a native of Haiti, was one of three players on that United States team who were not American citizens, but had officially declared their intention of becoming citizens. Although the use of those three players by the United States was approved by FIFA, Gaetjens never did become an American citizen. He disappeared in Haiti in 1964, and was believed to have been a victim of the Tontons Macoutes, the Duvalier regime’s brutal security police.

Gaetjens came to the United States in the 1940s as a student, and was discovered by Brookhattan of the American Soccer League while playing for an amateur team. He was not a member of the United States team during its World Cup qualifying tournament in 1949. However, he was added to the roster after he led the ASL in scoring in the 1949-50 season, and ended up playing all three games in the World Cup, the only three games he ever played for the United States.

Gaetjens’ goal in the 37th minute of the game between the United States and England was not captured on film. It thus has been a source of controversy as a result of claims by some English writers that Gaetjens had failed to get out of the way of Walter Bahr’s shot and the ball hit him on the side of the head and rebounded into the goal accidentally. People who were on the field confirmed that Gaetjens dove very purposefully at Bahr’s shot toward the far post, redirecting it past goalkeeper Bert Williams and landing on his face in the grass as the ball landed in the net.

After the 1950 World Cup, Gaetjens played several seasons for professional teams in France, but with little success. The sources of his fame remained centered around that goal in Belo Horizonte.

Inducted in 1976.