WASHINGTON/DOHA – Grant Wahl, a U.S. sportswriter covering the World Cup, died in Qatar on Friday, his family and U.S. Soccer said.
U.S. Soccer said it was “heartbroken to learn” of Wahl’s death. His wife responded to the U.S. Soccer statement mourning Wahl on Twitter, saying she was “in complete shock.”
Wahl, 48, a former Sports Illustrated journalist who had moved to the Substack publishing platform, had been tweeting about the Netherlands-Argentina match earlier Friday.
FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
San Diego Loyal SC tweeted that “simply put, there will never be another Grant Wahl.” San Diego Wave FC called his death “an unfathomable loss.”
“His contributions to the game will forever have a lasting impact – without him, the light won’t shine as bright on the game we all love,” SD Loyal added.
Wahl’s agent, Tim Scanlan, told the New York Times that Wahl had gone into acute distress in the final minutes of a quarterfinal match, which he was covering from the press area.
Scanlan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Times, NPR and other media reported that Wahl had collapsed while covering the Argentina-Netherlands match.
A video quickly circulated on social media in which Wahl’s brother, Eric Wahl, questioned what happened to his brother.
Eric, who said he is gay, said his brother had donned a pro-LGBTQ T-shirt last month in Qatar, to show support for him. The act caused a stir outside a stadium in Qatar, where same-sex relations are illegal. Grant, he said, received death threats after the incident.
“I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed. And I just beg for any help,” Eric Wahl said, breaking down in tears.
Wahl said in late November he had been briefly detained by World Cup security, which denied him entry to the U.S. opener against Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan and asked him to take his shirt, which bore a rainbow design, off.
As far as his health, the writer said on Monday that he had visited a hospital while in Qatar.
“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,” he posted on Substack.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter the department had been in close communication with Wahl’s family.
“We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible,” said Price.
The U.S. soccer community shared in an immediate outpouring of grief over the news.
“He was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable,” Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber said of Wahl’s death.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Amy Tennery in New York; additional reporting by Nick Mulvenney in Doha, Aadi Nair, and Brad Brooks; editing by William Mallard)
– Reuters and staff reports