Grant Wahl, a prominent U.S. soccer journalist with previous experience working for CBS Sports and Sports Illustrated, died in Qatar on Friday, according to his wife and U.S. Soccer.
Wahl, who was 48, had been in Qatar working as an independent journalist through his Substack "Fútbol with Grant Wahl."
Yahoo Sports soccer reporter Henry Bushnell was present at Friday's Argentina-Netherlands match and observed Wahl seemingly unconscious in his press box seat during extra time at Lusail Stadium. Medics worked on Wahl for approximately a half-hour before taking him out on a stretcher.
Wahl's wife Céline Gounder said she was in "complete shock" on Twitter:
U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price later tweeted his office was in communication with senior Qatari officials "to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible."
In a statement to Rob Harris of Sky News, the Qatar World Cup Supreme Committee also said it was “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.”
Per the Associated Press, Wahl had been working his eighth World Cup and wrote on Monday that had visited a hospital due to an illness:
“My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you,” Wahl wrote. “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. I didn’t have Covid (I test regularly here), but 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.”
Wahl's agent Tim Scanlan told The New York Times his client went into acute distress during the final minutes of Argentina's win and is believed to have died either at or on the way to a hospital. He reportedly confirmed Wahl hadn’t been feeling well, while noting he had hosted an evening gathering on Wednesday, a day before his birthday:
“He wasn’t sleeping well, and I asked him if he tried melatonin or anything like,” Scanlan said. “He said, ‘I just need to like relax for a bit.’”
Grant Wahl made an impact on soccer throughout his career, including Qatar World Cup
For the past two decades, Wahl was on the forefront of soccer journalism in America, first as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated before branching out as a television analyst for CBS and Fox Sports. His impact was widely felt in the U.S., where soccer remains a growing sport.
Wahl, whose death was mourned across the U.S. soccer world, often wielded that influence. He once announced a bid to unseat corrupt former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and was fired from Sports Illustrated in 2020 after criticizing publisher CEO James Heckman's handling of pay cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Outside of soccer, Wahl played a significant role in introducing LeBron James to the world. He wrote the story behind the iconic Sports Illustrated cover dubbing the current Los Angeles Lakers superstar the "chosen one." By the end of the night, James was paying tribute to Wahl too.
Most recently, Wahl made headlines when he was detained in Qatar ahead of the World Cup for refusing to remove a rainbow shirt. He was eventually released. On Thursday, he published a highly critical opinion piece accusing Qatar's World Cup leadership of not caring at all about the recently reported death of another migrant worker.
U.S. Soccer's full statement on Grant Wahl:
The entire U.S. Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl. Fans of soccer and journalism of the highest quality knew we could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game, and its major protagonists: teams, players, coaches and the many personalities that make soccer unlike any sport.
Here in the United States, Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in and respect for our beautiful game. As important, Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all. Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.
U.S. Soccer sends its sincerest condolences to Grant’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, and all of his family members, friends and colleagues in the media. And we thank Grant for his tremendous dedication to and impact on our game in the United States. His writing and the stories he told will live on.