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What we know about the death of American soccer journalist Grant Wahl at the Qatar World Cup

Brendan Moran
American soccer journalist Grant Wahl (left) died in Qatar Friday. Brendan Moran/AP Photo

Grant Wahl, one of the most prominent voices in American soccer journalism, died in Qatar on Friday at the age of 48 while covering the Netherlands-Argentina quarterfinal of the World Cup.

News of Wahl’s passing brought an outpouring of grief for one of the most significant figures in American soccer, along with concern about the circumstances of his death after he was briefly detained early in the tournament.

Here’s what we know so far.

What do we know about how Grant Wahl died?

Wahl was covering the quarterfinal at the Lusail Iconic Stadium in Qatar, where colleagues reported a commotion in the press box with reporters calling for medical assistance. Wahl was given treatment by paramedic on-site, including CPR and chest compressions, for approximately 20-25 minutes before he was transferred to Hamad General Hospital, according to multiple reports.


World Cup organizers only said Wahl “fell ill” in the press area, and have not released any further details about his illness or 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,” organizers said in a statement.

Wahl had reported feeling ill earlier in the week, describing tightness and discomfort in his chest on his podcast, Futbol with Grant Wahl, on Dec. 6. He sought medical treatment and thought he might be dealing with bronchitis.

“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 in his newsletter. “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.”

However, Wahl reported feeling better as the week progressed with the help of “a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup.”

Why did Grant Wahl make headlines in Qatar?

Wahl brought a big following the World Cup in Qatar, and was quickly at the center of the tournament’s controversy surrounding LGBTQ+ fans and their acceptance in the country.


Wahl attempted to enter the United States’ World Cup opener against Wales while wearing a rainbow T-shirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community, where he was refused entry and briefly detained at Ahmed Bin Ali stadium in Al Rayyan. He was released and received an apology from FIFA.

Wahl continued to voice his concerns about the controversies that have clouded this tournament. The final edition of his World Cup Daily newsletter covered Qatari apathy over the deaths of migrant workers in building the stadiums for FIFA’s showpiece event.

What has been the reaction to Grant Wahl’s death?

US Soccer quickly released a statement on social media, writing that “The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl.

“Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us … His writing and the stories he told will live on.”

Fox opened its coverage of Saturday’s quarterfinals with a tribute to their colleague — for several years a contributor to Fox’s soccer cover — delivered by an emotional Rob Stone.

Lakers star LeBron James was asked about Wahl Friday. Along with decades of soccer coverage for Sports Illustrated, Wahl penned the profile behind SI’s famous “The Chosen One” cover, when the future “King” was first anointed.


“He was always pretty cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron,” James said. “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.”

Colleagues from Wahl’s extensive career offered condolences and remembrance on Twitter, from Fox World Cup commentator Ian Darke, who said called Wahl “a brilliant journalist” and a “kind and helpful companion,” to ESPN’s Jay Bilas, who remembered “everything a great journalist should strive to be, and an even better person.”

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet that American officials were in touch with Qatari authorities “to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.”


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