Sportswriter Grant Wahl Dies at World Cup in Qatar

Sportswriter Grant Wahl died suddenly while covering the World Cup matches in Qatar, a few weeks after he quarreled with local authorities for defying their crackdown on LGBT fans and freedom of expression.

The United States Soccer Federation confirmed his death in a statement Late Friday, the 49-year-old veteran journalist was praised for his “insightful and entertaining stories” about the sport.

His wife, Celine Gunder, tweeted that she was “in complete shock.”

“I am so grateful for the support of my husband Grant Wahl’s football family and the many friends who reached out tonight,” she wrote.

Meanwhile, his brother took to social media to ask if there was foul play, although there was no immediate indication of this from official sources.

Wahl wrote in his Substack earlier in the week that he wasn’t feeling well.

“My body has finally broken down. Three weeks of too little sleep, too much stress and too much work can do that to you. What had been a cold for the past 10 days turned into something sharper on the night of the US-Netherlands game, and I felt my upper chest being exposed to a level New pressure and discomfort.

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“I didn’t have Covid (I test regularly here), but I went to the medical clinic in the main media center today, and they said I most likely had bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy duty cough syrup, and I actually felt a little better after a few hours.” .But still: no bueno.”

Wahl is best known for his stance last month for LGBT rights in a country that bans same-sex relations. He said that after he wore a rainbow shirt in the Ahmed bin Ali stadium, security guards confronted him and demanded that he take it off. He refused, he said, and was briefly detained, though he was released after he tweeted about the ordeal.

“A security guard told me my shirt was ‘political’ and not allowed,” he wrote on Substack. “Another constantly refused to give my phone back. Another guard standing over me yelled at me—I was sitting in a chair now—I have to take my shirt off.”

He said that a security guard later told him “they were just trying to protect me from the fans inside who would hurt me for wearing the shirt”.

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“But the whole episode left me wondering: What’s it like for the average Qatari who might be wearing a rainbow shirt when the world isn’t watching here? What’s that like?” he wrote.

NFL appeared to allude to the November 21 incident in its statement praising him. In addition to “uplifting” the sport through his “brilliant writing”, the FA said, “Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights has been, and will continue to be, an inspiration to all”.

A day before his death was reported, Wahl had publicly criticized the Qatari authorities over the deaths of migrant workers involved in football tournament projects. “They just don’t care. Qatar’s World Cup organizers don’t even hide their indifference to migrant worker deaths, including the most recent death,” Wahl wrote in an article posted on his Substack.

The article targeted Qatar World Cup president Nasser Al-Khater in an interview in which he appeared to ignore Amel’s death while suggesting focusing instead on a “successful World Cup”.

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There were few details immediately available about the circumstances of his death. NPR reported that he died in Doha while covering the World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and the Netherlands. An NPR reporter was present when Wahl suddenly collapsed at the press stand at Lusail Stadium. NPR reported that stunned reporters watched as paramedics rushed in and performed CPR before carrying him away on a stretcher.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement on Twitter that authorities were “working with senior Qatari officials to make sure his family’s wishes are met as quickly as possible.”

Wal’s brother, Eric, posted an emotional video on Instagram implying that something sinister was involved in his death.

“I’m gay. I’m the reason he wore the rainbow jersey to the World Cup. My brother was healthy. He told me he had received death threats. I can’t believe my brother just died. I think he was murdered,” he said in the video.

He said Wahl collapsed on the playground and received CPR before being taken to hospital, where he died.


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