- James Gregory
A prominent American soccer journalist has died while covering the World Cup matches in Qatar.
Grant Wahl, 48, felt tired at the start of extra time in the Argentina-Netherlands match on Friday night. Initial reports indicate that he may have suffered a heart attack, but this has not yet been officially confirmed.
Last month, Wal was briefly detained by Qatari authorities for trying to enter a stadium wearing a rainbow T-shirt, in support of gay rights.
The US Soccer Federation said in a statement that it was “heartbroken” by the news.
“Football fans and journalism of the highest quality knew we could always count on Grant to provide insightful and entertaining stories about our game and its key heroes,” he said.
In a tweet, Wahl’s wife, Celine Gunder, said she was in “total shock”, adding that she was “so grateful” for the support she had received from friends.
Wal celebrated his 48th birthday on Thursday with friends in Qatar, the day before his death.
He wrote on his website on Monday that he had not been feeling well for the past 10 days and had been taking antibiotics with suspected bronchitis.
“My body finally collapsed on me,” he wrote. “What had been a cold for the past 10 days turned into something much more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands match, and I felt my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.”
“I didn’t have COVID-19 (I get tested regularly here), but I went to the medical clinic and main media center today, and they said I probably had bronchitis.”
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Wahl’s love for football was “tremendous”, adding that his reports would be “missed by all who follow the global game”.
Eulogies poured in from many prominent British journalists.
Henry Winter, chief football writer for The Times, told BBC News that Wahl’s death represented a “moment of despair” for football and the industry around the world.
“Anyone who met Grant immediately got excited about him,” he said. “He was so passionate about the game, so passionate about the industry.”
“He promoted soccer in the United States – perhaps one of the reasons they will be such good hosts for the World Cup in four years’ time is his passion, his writing and his intense enthusiasm for promoting the sport in his home country and also standing behind the men’s national team and the women’s national team.”
Winter also told the BBC how Wahl had spoken out about his plans to run for the FIFA presidency in 2011 – which were eventually withdrawn.
BBC Sport’s Dan Rowan said in a tweet: “Grant Wahl was a well-known and well-respected journalist and the accolades are testament to the esteem in which he is held.”
“We are shocked, saddened and heartbroken at the tragic passing of Grant Wahl. He was a kind and loving person whose passion for football and dedication to journalism was immeasurable,” NFL Commissioner Don Garber wrote on Twitter.
US tennis icon Billie Jean King also paid tribute to Boal, calling him “an advocate for the LGBT community and a prominent voice for women’s football”.
A spokesman for the Qatari body responsible for planning the World Cup, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of American journalist Grant Wahl.”
“Grant was known for his great love of football,” he added.
“He felt tired at Lusail Stadium, during last night’s quarter-final match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He received immediate emergency medical treatment at the site, which continued while he was transported by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital.”
“We are in contact with the US Embassy and the relevant local authorities to ensure that the repatriation of the body is in accordance with the wishes of the family,” he said.
Earlier this week, Wahl received an award from Brazilian soccer legend Ronaldo for his reporting on eight consecutive World Cups, the first of which was in the United States in 1994.