American journalist dies while covering Football World Cup in Qatar

Prominent American football journalist Grant Wahl died on Friday after reportedly suffering “acute distress, as he was in Qatar to cover the ongoing FIFA World Cup.

Wahl, 48, collapsed suddenly during the quarterfinal and the Netherlands, as his agent Tim Scanlan said his client had “appeared to suffer some kind of acute distress in the start of extra time”.

Attempts were made to revive Wahl in the press box before he was taken by stretcher to a local hospital, where he was confirmed dead, Scanlan added.

Wahl, a former Sports Illustrated sportswriter who moved to the Substack online publishing platform, had been tweeting about the Netherlands-Argentina match earlier on Friday.

“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.”

Wahl said in late November that he was briefly detained when he tried to enter a World Cup stadium in Qatar while wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ community in a country where same-sex relations are illegal.

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 take his shirt off.

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.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter the department had been in close communication with Wahl’s family.

“We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible,” said Price.

In a statement, the US Soccer Federation said it was “heartbroken” by the news. “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, and its major protagonists,” it said.

In a tweet, Wahl’s wife, Céline Gounder, said she was in “complete shock”, adding that she was “so thankful” for the support she had received from friends.

A spokesperson for the Qatari body responsible for planning the World Cup, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of the US journalist Grant Wahl.

“He fell ill in the Lusail Stadium media tribune, during last night’s quarterfinal match between Argentina v Netherlands. He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital.”

“We are in touch with the US Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes.”

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