LUSAIL, Qatar – Grant Wahl, one of the best-known soccer writers in the United States, died early Saturday while covering the World Cup match between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 49 years old.
US media sitting next to him said Wahl fell back in his seat in the press box at Lucille Iconic Stadium during overtime and reporters close to him called for help. Emergency workers responded quickly, the reporters said, and reporters were later told that Wahl had died.
Wahl covered his eighth World Cup. He wrote on his website on Monday that he had visited the clinic while in Qatar.
“My body finally broke on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and a lot of work can do that to you,” Wahl wrote. “What had been a cold for the past 10 days turned into something more serious on the night of the USA-Holland game, and I could feel my upper chest taking on a new level of pressure and discomfort.
“I didn’t have covid (I check regularly here), but I went into the clinic in the main media center today, and they said I probably had bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a little better just a few hours later. But Still: we didn’t come.”
On his podcast Thursday, Wahl said he had a case of bronchitis and visited the clinic again.
“I basically canceled everything I had on this Thursday, and I took a nap and I’m doing a little bit better and you can tell in my voice that I’m not 100% in it here,” he said. “Hopefully I don’t cough during this podcast. I cough a lot. Everyone coughs in here like that by no means limited to me like so many journalists got a crazy cough. It sounds like a death rattle sometimes.
“The only thing that surprises me actually is that there’s not that much COVID here. I thought there might be a real problem with that. We’re not really seeing cases of COVID. We’re just seeing a lot of general illnesses, coughs, colds, and I can’t wait to be on the other side of what’s Lee. But I’m going to be ready to go, I’m attending on Friday.”
During the World Cup, Wahl drew international attention after he said he was briefly suspended from the USA’s game against Wales on November 21 for wearing a rainbow T-shirt in support of those who identify as LGBTQIA+. LGBTQIA+ rights are criminalized in Qatar, a conservative Muslim country.
Wahl wrote that he was detained for 25 minutes at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan, then released by a security chief. Wahl said FIFA apologized to him.
Wahl, a 1996 graduate of Princeton, worked at Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, best known for his coverage of college football and basketball. He then launched his own website. Wahl also worked for Fox Sports from 2012-19.
He is survived by his wife, Dr. Celine Gunder, a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University School of Medicine, an attending physician at Bellevue Hospital Center and a CBS News medical news contributor.
go under Tweet on Friday night that she was in “total shock” and thanked everyone for their support for her husband.
The spokesman for the US Department of State, Ned Price, said in a tweet that the US is “engaged with Qatari officials to make sure that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as quickly as possible.”
Sports Illustrated released a statement through editors-in-chief Ryan Hunt and Steven Canella, saying they were “shocked and devastated by the news of Grant’s death.”
“We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades — no writer in SI history was more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” the statement read. “Our hearts go out to Celine and his family, as well as everyone who loved his work. He will always be a part of the SI family.”
American football too Post a statement Friday evening, and said they were “heartbroken” to learn of Wahl’s death.
US Soccer statement on the passing of Grant Wahl: pic.twitter.com/CBp1mCK1mQ
— US Soccer (@ussoccer) December 10, 2022
Wahl wrote that he was among 82 journalists honored by FIFA and the International Sports Press Association AIPS for participating in eight or more World Cups.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.