Grant Wahl, one of the most well-known soccer writers in the United States, died early Saturday in Qatar while covering the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 48. US media seated near him said Wahl fell back in his seat in a section of Lusail Stadium reserved for journalists during the game's extra time, and reporters adjacent to him called for assistance, per the AP. Emergency services workers responded very quickly, the reporters said. "He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital," the World Cup organizing committee said in a statement, which didn't list a cause of death. "We are in touch with the US Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family's wishes."
Wahl was covering his eighth World Cup. He wrote Monday on his website that he'd visited a medical clinic while in Qatar. "My body finally broke down on me," Wahl wrote. "Three weeks of little sleep, high stress, and lots of work can do that to you. What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort." Wahl wrote that he'd tested negative for COVID-19 and sought treatment for his symptoms. "I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I'm already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno," he wrote.
Wahl graduated from Princeton in 1996 and worked for Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, known primarily for his coverage of soccer and college basketball. He then launched his own website. Wahl also worked for Fox Sports from 2012-19. Among Wahl's work before he began covering soccer exclusively was a Sports Illustrated cover story about LeBron James in 2002, when James was a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio. A voter at times in FIFA's annual awards, Wahl had been among 82 journalists honored by FIFA and the international sports press association AIPS for attending eight or more World Cups. Wahl wore a rainbow T-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights to the US' World Cup opener against Wales on Nov. 21 and wrote that security refused him entry and told him to remove the shirt. Gay and lesbian sex is criminalized in Qatar, a conservative Muslim emirate.
Wahl wrote he was detained for 25 minutes at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, then was let go by a security commander. Wahl said FIFA apologized to him. His brother, Eric Wahl, suggested that may be linked to Grant's death. "I am Grant Wahl's brother. I'm gay," Eric Wahl said in a video posted to his Instagram account, now private, per the New York Post. "I'm the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup. My brother was healthy. He told me he received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed." "We could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game, and its major protagonists," the US Soccer Federation said in a statement. Wahl's wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, tweeted that she was thankful for the support of her husband's "soccer family" and friends who'd reached out. "I'm in complete shock," wrote Gounder.
(Read more sports writer