Updated Dec 10, 2022 - Sports

"An inspiration to many": Journalist Grant Wahl dies while covering World Cup in Qatar

Grant Wahl, soccer journalist, at a World Cup match in Hartford, Conn.

Grant Wahl, soccer journalist, at a World Cup match in Hartford, Conn., in 2014. Photo: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Grant Wahl, a highly revered soccer journalist, died Friday while covering the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The latest: White flowers were placed on his desk ahead of the England vs. France World Cup quarterfinal match Saturday, per CNN.

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Saturday that Wahl was "an inspiration to many."
  • "Our thoughts are with his wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, and all those who loved him," she said.
  • She said the State Department has spoken with Wahl's family and Qatar's senior officials "to ensure his family gets the support they need."

Details: Wahl's death came after he collapsed during coverage of the World Cup quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands, according to multiple media reports.

  • Wahl’s agent, Tim Scanlan, told the New York Times that Wahl went into "acute distress" in the final moments of the match. He was taken to a hospital, where he passed away.

State of play: U.S. officials "have been in close communication" with Wahl's family since the incident, according to Ned Price, a State Department spokesman.

  • "We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible," Price said.
Grant Wahl sick at World Cup

Context: Wahl had not been feeling well throughout the tournament, Scanlan said.

  • “He wasn’t sleeping well, and I asked him if he tried melatonin or anything like,” Scanlan told NYT. “He said, ‘I just need to like relax for a bit.’”
  • Grant wrote on Dec. 5 that he had been feeling sick and that staff at the World Cup said he had bronchitis.
  • “My body finally broke down on me,” he wrote. “Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you. 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.”
Grant Wahl: What to know

Zoom out: Wahl was a longtime journalist at Sports Illustrated, where he wrote the cover story on LeBron James and covered the U.S. men's soccer team.

  • More recently, he provided coverage of the Qatar World Cup through his own newsletter, detailing human rights abuses and protests at the world tournament.
  • He also detailed an experience where he was detained for wearing an LGBTQ+ rights shirt.
Responses to Grant Wahl's death

What they're saying: “Fans of soccer and journalism of the highest quality knew we could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement.

  • "Grant made soccer his life's work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us."
  • Major League Soccer said it was "shocked, saddened and heartbroken" over Wahl's passing. "He was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable," MLS said.
  • LeBron James said in a postgame interview Friday that Wahl's passing was "a tragic loss."

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