U.S. journalist Grant Wahl collapsed and died following illness at World Cup in Qatar

Grant Wahl, an American journalist covering the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar, collapsed during a match Saturday and died after being transported to a hospital, the Associated Press reported.

No cause of death has been given thus far for the sudden and unexpected death of the 48-year-old reporter, and there are some suspicions of foul play given that his death followed a brief detainment by Qatari authorities near the beginning of the tournament when he wore an LGBTQ Pride rainbow T-shirt to a match in the Islamic country with strict laws against gay and lesbian rights.

However, Wahl himself had noted shortly before his death that he had been dealing with an illness for which he had sought treatment.

Brother suspects foul play

According to the AP, Wahl collapsed in the journalist section of the stadium during the closing minutes of the Argentina-Netherlands match on Saturday and, after being tended to by emergency personnel, was transported to the Hamad General Hospital in Doha and was declared dead.

People magazine reported that Eric Wahl, the reporter’s brother, announced in a statement that he suspected foul play related to the detention for the LGBTQ Pride shirt was to blame for his brother’s sudden death.

“I am gay, I am the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup. My brother was healthy, he told me he received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed, and I just beg for any help,” Eric said in a social media post.

Acknowledged illness

However, just a few days before his death, Wahl revealed in an update on his Substack page that “My body finally broke down on me. 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.”

“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. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno,” he added at that time.

Further, the AP noted that Wahl had only been detained by Qatari security for around 25 minutes on Nov. 21 before a commander ordered him released and FIFA issued him an apology. His illness didn’t begin until more than a week later.

Condolences and tributes

Though Wahl was essentially working as an independent journalist at the World Cup, as well as an analyst for CBS Sports, he previously worked for more than two decades for Sports Illustrated as a reporter covering mostly soccer but also a few other sports as well.

“We’re shocked and devastated at the news of Grant’s passing,” SI’s co-editors in chief Ryan Hunt and Stephen Cannella said in a joint statement. “We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades — no writer in the history of SI has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell. Our hearts go out to Céline and his family, as well as everyone who loved his work. He will always be part of the SI family.”

Wahl’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, said on Twitter, “I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s soccer family & of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight. I’m in complete shock.”

She also shared a statement from U.S. Soccer, which said, “The entire U.S. Soccer Family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” and added, “Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with the U.S. U.S. Soccer sends its sincerest condolences to Grant’s wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, and all of his family members, friends and colleagues in the media.”