Lusail, Qatar (AP) — Grant Wahl, one of the most famous soccer writers in the United States, died early Saturday while covering the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 48.
US media sitting next to him said Wall slumped back in his seat in a section of Luceille Stadium reserved for journalists during extra time of the game and reporters next to him called for help.
Emergency workers responded quickly, treated him at the scene for 20 to 30 minutes, and then carried him out on a stretcher, said Keir Radnedge, a veteran British sports journalist who was working nearby at the time.
The World Cup organizing committee said he was taken to Hamad General Hospital in Doha, but did not give a cause of death. “We are in contact with the US Embassy and the relevant local authorities to ensure that the process of repatriation of the body complies with the wishes of the family,” it said in a statement.
Wahl, who wrote for Sports Illustrated for a decade and then started his own website, was a key voice in introducing professional football to an American public used to seeing the game as a school-level sport. He also brought a critical eye to the governing bodies of international sport.
He “really helped put soccer on the mainstream sports map in the states,” Radnage said.
“Grant had a strong moral compass about where the game should be and how the game should be. “There was never any doubt that Grant was on the side of the good guys to get the most out of football.”
Wahl was covering his eighth World Cup. He visited a medical clinic while in Qatar, his website wrote on Monday.
“Finally my body collapsed on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress, and a lot of work can do you,” Wahl wrote. “The cold that’s been going on for the past 10 days took a turn for the worse the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I felt my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.”
Wahl wrote that he tested negative for COVID-19 and received treatment for his symptoms.
“I went to the medical clinic at the main media center today and they said I have bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some strong cough syrup, and after a few hours I was already feeling quite better. But still: no Buenos Aires,” he wrote.
Wahl tweeted Wednesday that he celebrated his birthday that day.
“We can always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our sport and its key protagonists,” the U.S. Soccer Federation said in a statement. “Grant’s belief in the power of sport to advance human rights was and will continue to be an inspiration to all. Grant made football his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his great writing are no longer with us.
Wahl’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder tweeted that she was grateful for the support of her husband’s “football family” and friends involved.
“I am in complete shockwrote Gounder, an assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine, a physician at Bellevue Hospital Center and a CBS News contributor.
said US State Department spokesman Ned Price In a tweet American officials have been in contact with Qatari authorities to “ensure that his family’s wishes are carried out as quickly as possible.”
Wahl wore a rainbow t-shirt for LGBTQ rights to the United States’ World Cup opener against Wales on Nov. 21 and wrote that security denied him entry and told him to remove the shirt. In Qatar, a conservative Muslim emirate, gay and lesbian sex is considered a crime.
Wahl wrote that he was held for 25 minutes at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, and then released by a security commander. Wahl said FIFA would apologize to him.
Among Wall’s work before he covered football was a sports illustrated cover story on LeBron James in 2002 when James was a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio.
“He was always very cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron,” James said in Philadelphia after the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the 76ers in overtime. “Anytime his name comes up, I always think back to myself as a teenager with Grant in our building on St. V. It’s a tragic loss. It is unfortunate to lose someone as great as him. My best wishes to his family. May he rest in paradise. “
Wahl, a voter at FIFA’s annual awards ceremony, was among 82 journalists honored last week by FIFA and the international sports media association AIPS for attending eight or more World Cups.
“His love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who followed the global game,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino.
Wahl graduated from Princeton in 1996 and worked for Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, known primarily for his coverage of football and college basketball. Then he launched his own website.
Wahl also worked for Fox Sports from 2012-19.
His death during the World Cup stunned fellow journalists covering the matches.
“You come to a World Cup to work as a journalist, to share not just the stress, the pressures but the enjoyment and excitement of it and share that with your readers, your listeners, your viewers. That’s what Grant did, and that’s what he was happy to do. Everyone recognized that enthusiasm in him,” Radnage said.
“So it’s a great shock when he’s no longer with us at such a young age.”
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