LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — U.S. journalist Grant Wahl, who helped popularize soccer in the United States and reported some of the biggest stories in the sport, died Saturday while covering the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 48.
During extra time of the game, Wahl collapsed in his seat in the press section of Lusail Stadium, and the reporters next to him called for help.
Emergency workers responded very quickly, treating him on the spot for 20 or 30 minutes before taking him out on a stretcher, said Keir Rudnage, a veteran British sports journalist who was working nearby at the time.
The World Cup organizing committee said he was taken to Doha’s Hamad General Hospital, but did not give a cause of death. “We are in contact with the US Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure that the process of repatriating the body meets the wishes of the family,” the statement said.
Wahl, who wrote for Sports Illustrated for a decade before starting his own website, was a key voice in informing the American public about soccer during a period when interest soared after the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup. He also paid critical attention to the organizational structures of international sport.
In 2011, Wahl tried to run for FIFA president against Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam. He promised to bring more transparency to FIFA and said he had contacted 150 countries without winning support for the nomination.
He “really helped put football on the major sports map in the States,” Radnage said.
“Grant had a strong moral compass about where sports should be and how sports … should help set standards for people,” he said. “There was never any doubt that Grant was on the side of the good guys, wanting football to get the most out of it.”
Vaal played his eighth World Cup. On Monday, he wrote on his website that he visited a medical clinic while in Qatar.
“My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, a lot of stress and a lot of work can do that to you,” Wahl wrote. the upper chest takes on a new level of pressure and discomfort.”
Wahl wrote that he had tested negative for COVID-19 and was seeking treatment for his symptoms.
“Today I went to the medical clinic in the main media center and they said that I probably have bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and a strong cough syrup, and after a few hours I already feel better. But still: No bueno, “he wrote
Vaal tweeted on Wednesday that he celebrated his birthday that day.
“We’ve always been able to count on Grant to provide insight and entertaining stories about our game and its main characters,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. “Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to raising its profile throughout our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to foster interest and respect for our beautiful game.”
Wahl’s wife, Dr Celine Gounder, tweeted that she was grateful for the support of her husband’s “football family” and friends who had been in touch.
” I am in complete shock,” wrote Gounder, who is an associate professor at New York University School of Medicine, an attending physician at Bellevue Hospital Center and a CBS News contributor.
Spokesman of the US State Department, Ned Price on twitter that American officials were contacting Qatari authorities “to ensure that his family’s wishes are carried out as soon as possible.”
Wahl wore a rainbow T-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights to the United States’ World Cup opener against Wales on Nov. 21, and wrote that security denied him entry and told him to take his shirt off. Qatar, a conservative Muslim emirate, has criminalized gay and lesbian sex.
Wahl wrote that he was detained for 25 minutes at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan before being released by the security commander. Wahl said FIFA apologized to him.
One of Wahl’s jobs, before he began covering football exclusively, was a Sports Illustrated cover story on LeBron James in 2002, when James was a St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio.
“He was always pretty cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron,” James said in Philadelphia after the Los Angeles Lakers lost in overtime to the 76ers. Grant lived in our building on St. V. It’s a tragic loss. It’s a shame to lose someone as great as he was. I wish his family the best. May he rest in paradise.”
Wahl, a one-time FIFA voter of the year, was among 82 journalists honored by FIFA and the international sports press association AIPS last week for attending eight or more World Cups.
“His love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the global game,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
Wahl graduated from Princeton in 1996 and worked at Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, known primarily for its coverage of football and college basketball. He then created his website Fútbol with Grant Wahl and a podcast with Meadowlark Media.
Wahl also worked at Fox Sports from 2012 to 2019 and was hired by CBS Sports in 2021 as an analyst and editorial consultant. Wahl wrote the 2009 book The Beckham Experiment after English soccer star David Beckham joined Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, and the 2018 book Modern Masters of Soccer.
His death at the World Cup shocked fellow journalists covering the games.
“You come to the World Cup as a journalist to work, to share the stress, the pressure, the enjoyment and the glamor of it – and to share it with your readers, listeners and viewers. That’s what Grant did, that’s what he liked to do. Everyone recognized that enthusiasm in him,” Radnage said.
“For him to be gone at such a young age is a huge shock.”
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