A prominent American sports reporter, who clashed with Qatar World Cup organizers last month over an LGBTQ rainbow jersey, died on Friday while covering a tense quarterfinal match, his family said.
Grant Wahl, 48, helped build the popularity of soccer in the United States through his vivid reporting for Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and other outlets.
Wahl collapsed in the press box during the Argentina-Netherlands game on Friday. The Wall Street Journal said that he suffered a suspected heart attack.
Wahl’s wife, Celine Gounder, a renowned epidemiologist, said on Twitter: “I am completely shocked.”
A spokesman for the Qatar organizing committee said he “received immediate emergency medical treatment at the scene, which continued while he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital.”
“We offer our deepest condolences to Grant’s family, friends and many close colleagues in the media,” the statement added.
– World Cup ‘stress’ –
Organizers failed to mention an incident just before the November 21 match between the United States and Wales when Wahl was detained as he was entering the stadium for wearing a rainbow shirt in support of LGBTQ rights.
Qatar criminalizes homosexuality and Wahl said security guards told him the shirt was “political.”
Widespread tributes were paid to the journalist who had been covering his eighth World Cup, beginning with the 1994 tournament in the United States.
“His love for soccer was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the world game,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
“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 said.
“The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken,” he added.
“Soccer fans and top-quality journalism knew we could count on Grant to deliver interesting and entertaining stories about our game and its main players – teams, players, coaches and… the many personalities that make soccer different than others. any other sport.
Wahl said in his subscription newsletter earlier this week that he had gone to a clinic at the media center in Qatar, “and they said I probably have bronchitis.”
“My body finally collapsed on top of me. Three weeks of little sleep, a lot of stress and a lot of work can do that to you… I could feel my upper chest taking on a new level of pressure and discomfort,” she wrote.
With some antibiotics and “some tough cough syrup,” Wahl said she was “feeling a little better just a few hours later.” But still: Not good.”
Wahl joined Sports Illustrated, then the leading sports publication in the US, in 1996 to report on soccer. He stayed with the magazine until 2020, joining CBS Sports a year later.
He also had an email subscription newsletter and was posting during the World Cup. He was recently among the journalists honored by the International Association of Sports Press (AIPS) for his work.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted: “We are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl,” adding that US authorities have been “in close communication” with his family.