US sports journalist Grant Wahl dies while covering Qatar 2022 World Cup match

US sports journalist Grant Wahl dies while covering Qatar 2022 World Cup match - GETTY IMAGES
US sports journalist Grant Wahl dies while covering Qatar 2022 World Cup match - GETTY IMAGES

A prominent American sportswriter has died after collapsing inside the stadium during the Argentina-Netherlands match at the World Cup.

Grant Wahl, who was last month briefly detained by Qatari authorities for trying to enter a stadium with a rainbow shirt, "appeared to suffer some kind of acute distress in the start of extra time", his agent said.

Wahl had recently complained of feeling ill, saying in one social media post that he "probably" has bronchitis. In an Instagram video post, his brother Eric expressed concern over the circumstances of the death. "I just beg for any help," he added.

Megan Rapinoe and Billie Jean King were among big names from the world of sport to immediately pay tribute to the journalist who "used his platform to elevate those whose stories needed telling".

Wahl collapsed shortly after Holland had equalised to take the game into extra time. Colleagues around him in the press tribune in the stadium on Friday screamed for emergency assistance from paramedics, who attempted to revive the 48-year-old in the press box before he was taken to a local hospital. Reporters sitting near Wahl, a former Sports Illustrated sportswriter, said he had initially fallen back in his seat, although no further details of his death have been released.

US Soccer said it was "heartbroken to learn" of his death with Mr Wahl's wife, Dr Celine Gounder, saying she was "in complete shock".

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Qatar's World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), paid tribute to Wahl's "enormous love of football" and offered condolences to his family, friends and media colleagues. Earlier this week, he had been presented with an award by Brazilian football legend Ronaldo for reporting on eight consecutive World Cups - his first being in the US in 1994.

"We are in touch with the U.S. Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family's wishes," the SC spokesperson said.

"Everyone's emotional and it's really traumatic," Scanlan said. "He was a true advocate for both the men's and women's games and really just cared deeply about the sport. He was empathetic and just truly a brilliant writer."

Gianni Infantino, president of world soccer governing body Fifa, offered condolences, saying in a statement that Wahl's "love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the global game".

Wahl said in late November he was briefly stopped at a World Cup stadium security screening point when he tried to enter while wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ community. In Qatar, same-sex relations are illegal.

Journalist Grant Wahl at an awards ceremony in Doha - AP
Journalist Grant Wahl at an awards ceremony in Doha - AP

He said World Cup security denied him entry to the United States' opener against Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan and asked him to remove his shirt.

Wahl wrote 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.

The US 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.

"This is so devastating," twice World Cup winner Rapinoe on Twitter. "All the love to his family and loved ones."

Jean-King added: "Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Grant Wahl. A talented journalist, Grant was an advocate for the LGBTQ community and a prominent voice for women's soccer. He used his platform to elevate those whose stories needed telling."

Brother Eric had said: “My name is Eric Wahl. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am Grant Wahl’s brother. I’m gay. I’m the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup."