Prominent American journalist, Grant Wahl has died in Qatar after collapsing while covering the World Cup.
He “collapsed” in the press area while covering Friday’s Argentina-Netherlands match, according to reports.
US media representatives seated near him, said Wahl fell back in his seat in the press box at Lusail Iconic Stadium during extra time and reporters adjacent to him called for assistance. Emergency services workers responded very quickly, the reporters said. Sadly, they were later were told that Wahl had died.
Wahl made headlines in November by reporting that he was detained and briefly refused entry to a World Cup match because he was wearing a rainbow t-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights.
He said security staff had told him to change his shirt because “it’s not allowed,” and had taken his phone. Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received apologies from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the security team at the stadium.
Wahl had covered soccer for more than two decades, including 11 World Cups, and authored several books on the sport, according to his website.
American journalist, Grant Wahl, collapses and dies days after wearing LGBTQ shirt at Qatar World Cup
The circumstances around his death are not clear but he was 48 years old, according to a statement from his former longtime employer Sports Illustrated.
“The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” US Soccer said in a statement on its official Twitter account.
“Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”
US Soccer praised Wahl’s passion and “belief in the power of the game to advance human rights,” and shared its condolences with Wahl’s wife, Celine Gounder, and his loved ones.
Gounder also posted the US Soccer statement on Twitter.
“I am so thankful for the support of my husband Grant Wahl’s soccer family and of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight. I’m in complete shock,” wrote Gounder, a former CNN contributor.
In an episode of the podcast Futbol with Grant Wahl, published just days before his death on December 6, he had complained of feeling unwell.
“It had gotten pretty bad in terms of like the tightness in my chest, tightness, pressure. Feeling pretty hairy, bad.” Wahl told co-host Chris Wittyngham in the episode.
He added that he sought help at the medical clinic at the World Cup media center, believing he had bronchitis.
He was given cough syrup and ibuprofen, and felt better shortly afterward, he said.
Wahl also said he experienced an “involuntary capitulation by my body and mind” after the US-Netherlands game on December 3.
“This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done eight of these on the men’s side,” he said at the time. “And so like, I’ve gotten sick to some extent at every tournament, and it’s just about trying to find a way to like get your work done.”
He further described the incident in a recent newsletter published on December 5, writing that his body had “broke down” after he had little sleep, high stress and a heavy workload. He’d had a cold for 10 days, which “turned into something more severe,” he wrote, adding that he felt better after receiving antibiotics and catching up on sleep.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the department was in “close communication” with Wahl’s family.
The co-editors in chief of Sports Illustrated, the publication where Wahl spent the majority of his career, said in a joint statement they were “shocked and devastated at the news of Grant’s passing.”
“We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades – no writer in the history of (Sports Illustrated) has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” said the statement.
The statement added that Wahl had first joined the publication in November 1996. He had volunteered to cover the sport as a junior reporter – back before it reached the heights of global popularity it now enjoys – eventually becoming “one of the most respected soccer authorities in the world,” it said.
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