Renowned American journalist dies at World Cup

Grant Wahl, one of the most well-known soccer writers in the United States, died while covering Argentina’s match against the Netherlands in Qatar on Saturday. He was 48 years old.

According to US media seated nearby, Wahl fell back during extra time in the press box at Lusail Iconic Stadium. Reporters said emergency workers responded very quickly, and Wahl died later that day.

“He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital,” said the World Cup committee. It did not provide details regarding the 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.”

This was Wahl’s eighth World Cup coverage. According to his website, he visited a medical clinic in Qatar on Monday.

“My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you,” wrote Wahl. “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 mentioned on his podcast Thursday that he visited the medical clinic again due to bronchitis.

“I basically canceled everything on this Thursday that I had, and napped and I’m doing slightly better that you can probably tell in my voice that I’m not at it at 100 percent here,” he explained. “Hopefully I will not cough during this podcast. I’m coughing a lot. Everyone’s coughing here in like this is by no means limited to me like so many journalists have got a crazy cough. It sounds like a death rattle sometimes.

“The only thing that’s surprising to me actually is there isn’t that much COVID here. I thought there might be a real issue with that. We’re not really seeing COVID cases. We’re just seeing a lot of general sickness, coughing, colds, and I can’t wait to be on the other side of what I have. But I am going to be ready to go. I’m attending on Friday.”

During the World Cup, Wahl drew international attention after saying he was briefly stopped from attending the US match against Wales in November. Despite Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation, criminalizing LGBTQIA+ rights, she wore a rainbow-colored T-shirt in support of those who identify as LGBTQIA+.

According to Wahl, he was detained in Al Rayyan’s Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium for 25 minutes, then released by a security commander. He said FIFA apologized to him.

In 1996, Wahl graduated from Princeton and worked for Sports Illustrated until 2021, primarily covering soccer and college basketball. After that, he launched his own website. Between 2012 and 2019, Wahl worked for Fox Sports.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, associate clinical professor at New York University School of Medicine and attending physician to Bellevue Hospital Center as well as a CBS News medical news contributor.

She tweeted Friday night that she was in “complete shock” and thanked everyone for their support.

U.S. Men’s National Team captain Tyler Adams tweeted his “deepest sympathy” to Gounder and “all those who mourn the loss of Grant Wahl.” U.S. Soccer said it was “heartbroken” to learn of Wahl’s death.

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price tweeted that the U.S. is “working with senior Qatari officials to ensure that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as quickly as possible.”

A statement from Sports Illustrated’s co-editors in chief Ryan Hunt and Stephen Cannella says they are “shocked and devastated at the news of Grant’s passing.”

“We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades — no writer in the history of SI has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” SI said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to Celine and his family, as well as everyone who loved his work. He will always be part of the SI family.”

Wahl’s work for Sports Illustrated included the “The Chosen One” cover story about LeBron James in 2002, when James was a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, OH.

“He was always pretty cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron,” James said after the Los Angeles Lakers lost in overtime to the Philadelphia 76ers. “Any time his name would come up, I’ll always think back to me as a teenager having Grant in our building down at St. V’s. It’s a tragic loss. It’s unfortunate to lose someone as great as he was. I wish his family the best. May he rest in paradise.”

FIFA and the international sports press association AIPS honored Wahl for attending eight or more World Cups as a voter at times in FIFA’s annual awards.

“Only some days ago, Grant was recognized by FIFA and AIPS for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups, and his career also included attendance at several FIFA Women’s World Cups, as well as a host of other international sporting events,” said FIFA president Gianni Infantino. “His love for football was immense, and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the global game.”