Hector Castro – The one-armed World Cup winner

Hector Castro

One of the nicest things about a World Cup is that every four years the opportunity presents itself to trawl through decades of matches, stories and information and to re-discover lost gems and bring them to a new audience. The 20th World Cup finals will, I am sure add more of the above to an ever increasing mine of fabulous football facts.

Although international football existed from the 1870s onwards it wasn’t until 1930 that the world governing body, FIFA, got it’s act together, having been formed in 1904, and agreed to stage the first World Cup in Uruguay because they had won two Olympic gold medals in football and the fact that the country was also celebrating the centenary of gaining independence from Spain. Considerably significant was the fact that Uruguay agreed to underwrite the cost of teams competing in the finals.

Due to the staging of the finals in South America only four European nations competed; France, Yugoslavia, Romania and Belgium. Had it not been for Jules Rimet, FIFA President from 1921 to 1954, France would not have been part of history, nor Belgium. The other eight finalists were from South America, though strictly speaking Mexico is Central America.

Argentina topped Group 1 with maximum points from three wins out of three. Yugoslavia topped Group 2 with two wins out of two. Uruguay easily won Group 3 winning both their games with five goals scored and none conceded. The USA, with five ex-Scottish players and an Englishman in their team, were Group 4 winners with four points from their two victories.

The American dream ended in the semi-finals with a 6-1 drubbing from Argentina and Uruguay won the right to face their fiercest rivals with their own 6-1 thrashing of Yugoslavia.

Both semis were staged at the new Centario Stadium in Montevideo and it was to that very same stage Uruguay and Argentina returned on 30 July 1930 to contest the first ever World Cup, or Jules Rimet Final.

Statistics and record books are all very well and worthy of their place in the great scheme of things but when those stats hide or even obscure true, human stories it is time to consign facts to the back burner. Thus it is for the very first World Cup Final. Read any number of World Cup books and very few will mention Hector Castro, beyond the fact he scored Uruguay’s fourth goal in their 4-2 triumph over Argentina. But the background to that player’s involvement is so riveting it deserves more credit than it gets.

Trawl though I may, and there has been a lot of that, I cannot definitively say which arm Hector Castro had deformed by an accident, when he was 13, with an electric saw. Some sources say it was his right forearm, other say his left. What is not in doubt is the fact that despite his handicap he graduated from club football in Uruguay, won an Olympic Gold medal when his country won the 1928 tournament and played his part in Uruguay winning the very first World Cup Final, in 1930.

But for another one of those tricks of fate Castro might have been an observer at that final but an injury to Uruguay’s star striker, Pelegrin Anselmo, in the semi-final victory over Yugoslavia meant a place in the final for his deputy, Hector Castro. What isn’t widely known is that on the eve of that meeting with Argentina, Castro received a most unwelcome phone call in his hotel room. The gruff-voiced caller suggested to Hector that he could be 50,000 pesos richer if he ensured Uruguay lost the next day. The caller also suggested that if Uruguay were to win Hector would not see another sunset!

Such was the intensity of the rivalry between Uruguay and Argentina, emanating from defeat for the latter by their rivals in the 1928 Olympic Final, after a replay, that the sides even argued over the ball for the Final. In the end it was decided to play the first half with a ball manufactured in Argentina and with that ball they lead 2-1 at the interval. The ball was changed for one made in Uruguay and with their ball the hosts scored three times, Hector getting the fourth for the hosts, to secure the first World Cup win, 4-2.

Hector Castro retired in 1935 with a very impressive 18 goals in his 25 caps for Uruguay but there is little doubt that the most precious was the last goal in the 1930 World Cup Final.

Longest serving freelance football reporter for Sky Sports, 1,000+ games. Author of Breedon Book of Premiership Records and Three Lions.
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