World Cup 2014

World Cup Memories: How the 1998 final in France launched Grant Wahl's Sports Illustrated career

There are just 18 days before the 2014 World Cup and soccer media all around North America are packing their bags and getting their vaccinations ahead of their trip to Brazil.

The first-timers will hope to have as memorable a tournament as long-time Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl did in 1998. It was an event which launched a long career in the sport as Wahl himself describes it:


My favorite personal World Cup moment happened on July 12, 1998, on the night France beat Brazil in the World Cup final. I was 24 and covering my first World Cup, and I had been Sports Illustrated’s No. 3 writer for most of the tournament. But the other two writers had gone home – one for a wedding, one after the US’s departure – and so SI’s editors decided to take a risk and let the young guy write the 2,500-word magazine story on the final on an overnight deadline.

But I made a big rookie mistake. Instead of bringing my laptop to the stadium with me (we didn’t really have a website then), I left it back at our apartment near the Bastille in Paris. Stupidly, I assumed favored Brazil would win the game and the streets would be relatively clear afterward. Whoops! France crushed the Brazilians 3-0, and afterward the millions of citizens celebrating in the streets brought comparisons to the response over the Liberation in World War II. I ended up sitting on a media shuttle bus that was stuck in gridlock. At around 2 am, realizing my time was running out, I got out and walked.

For the next three hours I walked through the streets of Paris: Down the Champs-Élysées, where more than a million fans filled the entire iconic avenue; next to the River Seine, where I stopped every so often and scribbled down article ideas in my notebook; and finally, at 5 am, into our apartment with my laptop. With adrenaline flowing at full blast, I cranked out 2,500 words, beating my 3 pm deadline by a few minutes. (Thank God for the time-zone difference.) In the end, my editors loved the story, which had scenes of the celebration I’d witnessed walking across the city, and I’ve been SI’s soccer writer ever since.

WORLD CUP MEMORIES:

Alexi Lalas: Legend's all-time favorite moment was a hand ball

Clint Dempsey: Childhood dreams come true with a single goal

Bruce Arena: First World Cup game? Only one of the biggest upsets in history

Landon Donovan: Baggio's missed PK in '94 leaves profound impact on US great

Kyle Beckerman: The Saudi Arabian who inspired RSL's World Cup hopeful

Jason deVos: 1986ers pave the way for future Canadian national team star

Will Johnson: Timbers captain experiences agony and ecstasy in 120 minutes in 1998

Michael Bradley: The miracle comeback that he helped author in South Africa 2010

Carlos Valderrama: The goal that brings goosebumps to every Colombian

Clint Mathis: The Mohawk and the Red Sea in South Korea

Robbie Keane: Lady Luck shines on Republic of Ireland in 2002

Tim Cahill: RBNY star goes down in the history books in 2006