Prominent American journalist Grant Wahl has died in Qatar after collapsing While covering the World Cup, it sparked a wave of shock and grief throughout the sports world.
A witness told CNN he “collapsed” while covering the Argentina-Netherlands match on Friday.
Qatar World Cup organizers said on Saturday that Wahl “fell ill” in the press area, where he received “immediate medical treatment on site”. He was then transferred to Hamad General Hospital, said a spokesman for the Supreme Court Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body responsible for planning the tournament.
World Soccer columnist Keir Radnedge told CNN on Saturday that he was medicated on the field for “20 to 25 minutes” before being taken to hospital.
“This was near the end of extra time in the game. Suddenly, the colleagues to my left started screaming for medical help. Someone had obviously collapsed. Because the chairs are self-contained, people have been able to move the chairs, so it’s possible Create a little space around it.”
He added that the medical team was there “very quickly and was able to provide treatment as best they could.”
The circumstances of his death are unclear.
“The entire American Football family is saddened to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” US Soccer said in a statement on its official Twitter account.
“Grant made football his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his wonderful writing will no longer be with us.”
Soccer USA paid tribute to Wahl’s passion and “his belief in the power of the game to advance human rights,” and shared condolences with Wahl’s wife, Celine Gunder, and his loved ones.
Gunder also posted the NFL’s statement on Twitter.
“I am so grateful for the support of my husband Grant Wahl’s football family and the many friends who reached out tonight. I am in complete shock,” wrote Gunder, a former CNN contributor who served on the Biden-Harris Covid-19 Transition Advisory Board.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department is in “close contact” with Wahl’s family. World Cup organizers also said they were in contact with the US embassy “to ensure that the repatriation of the body is in line with the family’s wishes”.
Wahl has covered soccer for more than two decades, including 11 World Cups — six men’s and five women’s — and has written several books on the sport, according to his website.
He had just celebrated his birthday earlier this week with “an amazing group of World Cup media friends,” according to a post on his official Twitter account, which added: “So grateful to everyone.”
In an episode of the podcast Futbol with Grant Wahl, posted days before his death on December 6, he complained of feeling unwell.
“It just got really bad in terms of my chest tightness and tightness and pressure. It feels nice, bad,” Wahl told host Chris Whittingham on the episode. He added that he sought help from the medical clinic at the World Cup media center, thinking he had bronchitis.
He said he was given cough medicine and ibuprofen, and he felt better soon afterward.
Wahl also said he experienced an “involuntary surrender of my body and mind” after the United States-Netherlands match on December 3.
“This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done eight of those on the men’s side,” he said at the time. “And so, I get kind of sick every tournament, and it’s just about trying to find a way to get your work done.”
He further described the incident in a newsletter recently published on December 5, writing that his body had “crumbled” after his lack of sleep, extreme stress, and heavy workload. He had a cold for 10 days, which “turned into something more serious,” he wrote, adding that he felt better after receiving antibiotics and catch-up sleep.
Wahl made headlines in November by reporting that he had been arrested and briefly refused to participate in a World Cup match because he was wearing a rainbow T-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights.
He said that security agents asked him to change his shirt because “it was not allowed,” and that they confiscated his phone. Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after his arrest and received an apology from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the stadium’s security team.
Afterward, Wahl told CNN it was “probable” that he would wear the jersey again.
Wahl’s death sent shockwaves through the sports and football journalism community, with many sharing their tributes on social media.
“Just a few days ago, Grant was recognized by FIFA and AIPS (International Federation of Sports Press) for his contribution to the coverage of eight consecutive FIFA World Cups,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
The associate editors of Sports Illustrated, the publication where Wall has spent most of his career, said in a joint statement that they were “shocked and appalled by the news of Grant’s death.”
“We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades – no writer in the history of Sports Illustrated was more passionate about the sports he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” the statement read.
It added that Wall had first joined the publication in November 1996. He had volunteered to cover the sport as a junior reporter – before it reached the heights of global popularity it now enjoys – eventually becoming “one of the most respected football authorities in the world”.
The statement said Wahl has also worked with other media outlets, including Fox Sports. After leaving Sports Illustrated in 2020, he began publishing a podcast and newsletter.
On Friday in Philadelphia, basketball star LeBron James said he was “very fond of Grant.” While Wahl was at Sports Illustrated, he did a cover story on James when James was in high school.
“I always kind of watched from a distance even as I moved up the ranks and turned pro, and he went into a different sport,” said James, speaking at a post-match press conference. “Anytime his name comes up, I will always think of my teenage mind and Grant’s presence in our building… It’s such a tragic loss.”
Tennis player Billie Jean King said the American’s death was “heartbreaking”.
“As a talented journalist, Grant has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community and a leading voice for women’s soccer,” King chirp Saturday. “He used his platform to uplift those whose stories needed to be told. Prayers for his family.”
Other current and former NFL players, including Ali Krieger and Tony Meola, offered their condolences, as did sports bodies such as Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League.
Whittingham, co-host of Wahl’s podcast, told CNN on Saturday that the news of his death was difficult to comprehend.
“For Americans, Grant Wahl is the first person you’ll read covering football. He was kind of the only person for a while… Grant was the first person to really pay attention to the sport in a meaningful way,” said Whittingham.
Many journalists have shared stories from reporting alongside Wahl, and they’ve interviewed him at several World Cup tournaments over the years.
“Before he became the best football coverage he was doing the episodes and being nice to me,” famous broadcaster Dick Vitale wrote.
Timmy T. Davis, the US ambassador to Qatar, wrote on Twitter that Wahl “was a well-known and well-respected reporter focused on the beautiful game.”
“Alcohol enthusiast. Twitter ninja. Tv lover. Falls down a lot. Hipster-friendly coffee geek.”