With the World Cup kicking off on Sunday, esteemed soccer journalist Grant Wahl gave Front Office Sports a view from the ground in Qatar.
During a conversation with FOS writer Doug Greenberg at the Global Goals: The World Cup and Beyond summit, Wahl prepared viewers for the upcoming international tournament and gave viewers an inside look at how he conducts coverage.
“Because this is my 13th World Cup, my eighth men’s, I’ve learned a lot of stuff over the years just about what’s important to cover and, just as importantly, what I don’t need to do here,” said Wahl. “I could be up 24 hours a day doing work if I wanted to, but you can’t function that way.”
He also described how the infrastructure for the tournament has come together — despite the host’s many controversies from the beginning.
“I went to 14 FIFA hotels here, including the hotel where the US team is staying, and I asked workers at each hotel… the new laws to protect workers that were passed by the Qatari government in 2019, are they being followed on the ground?” he said. “Some trends emerged the more people I talked to, which is that no, they are not being followed, all of them, on the ground.”
He noted that while minimum wage laws are largely being followed, things like job and movement freedom are still limited.
And after remarking that he was stopped from photographing a slogan on a wall, Wahl delved into how security is handling the media — and how it could turn out once the tournament starts.
“I think realistically we’re gonna see some incidents and I guess the question is how many and how bad are they gonna be?” he said. “I hope we don’t see more, but yeah, we will see.”
Wahl also revealed his pick for the Final (Argentina over Belgium) and emphasized the excitement around the United States squad.
“For the U.S., it’s really important just to be back in the World Cup, which it missed out on in 2018 and was literally the biggest failure in the history of U.S. soccer,” he said. “There’s a real sense of positivity around this US program that they now need to back up on the field in a tough group.”