Going to a foreign land has its drawbacks, and there is a lot more to this story than we know.
Influential U.S. soccer journalist Grant Wahl died in Qatar while covering the World Cup, his brother announced. He was 48.
While covering Argentina’s quarterfinal win over the Netherlands on Friday, Wahl, who had run his own Substack after a long career at Sports Illustrated, collapsed at Lusail Iconic Stadium and was rushed to a nearby hospital. It’s unclear whether he died at the hospital or in transport.
His brother, Eric, believes foul play from the Qatari government may have been involved.
“My name is Eric Wahl. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am Grant Wahl’s brother. I’m gay,” he said in a video posted to his Instagram account before making the account private. “I’m 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.”
Prior to the USMNT’s World Cup game against Wales, Wahl was initially not allowed into Ahmad bin Ali Stadium and detained for 30 minutes for wearing a shirt depicting a soccer ball surrounded by a rainbow. He was eventually let into the stadium.
The Qatari government cracked down on pro-LGBTQ demonstrations at the tournament despite their original promises not to. In addition to his rainbow-themed shirt, Wahl has been an outspoken critic of the Qatari government and its hosting of the World Cup. On Thursday, he wrote “They just don’t care. Qatari World Cup organizers don’t even hide their apathy over migrant worker deaths, including the most recent one,” in an article on his Substack.
“We’re still trying to find out,” Eric continued. “He collapsed at the stadium, was given cpr, was taken by Uber to hospital and died according to Celine. We just spoke with the state department and Celine has spoken to Ron Klain and the White House.”
Just one day prior, Wahl revealed that he was dealing with bronchitis while feeling under the weather.
“My body I think told me, even after the U.S. went out, ‘dude, you are not sleeping enough.’ It rebelled on me,” Wahl said on his podcast, “Futbol with Grant Wahl,” on Thursday. “So I’ve had a case of bronchitis this week, I’ve been to the medical clinic at the media center twice now, including today. I’m feeling better today I basically cancelled everything on this Thursday that I had and napped. And I’m doing slightly better. I think you can probably tell in my voice that I’m not 100 percent.”
Wahl was married to Céline R. Gounder, an American infectious disease physician who served on the COVID-19 Advisory Board transition team for President Joe Biden.
During the game, Wahl was tweeting coverage of the proceedings. His last tweet was at 4:05 p.m. ET. His wife also posted a tweet following the news.
“I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s soccer family & of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight,” Gounder tweeted. “I’m in complete shock.”
A Mission, Kan. native, Wahl attended Princeton University. In addition to his work at Sports Illustrated, he was also a soccer correspondent and analyst for CBS Sports and Fox Sports, and authored the book “The Beckham Experiment.”
“The entire U.S. soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement. “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: Teams, players, coaches, and the many personalities that make soccer unlike any sport. Here in the United States, Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in and respect for our beautiful game.
“As important, Grant’s belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all. Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.
“U.S. soccer sends its sincerest condolences to Grant’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, and all of his family members, friends and colleagues in the media. And we thank Grant for his tremendous dedication to and impact on out game in the United States. His writing and the stories he told will live on.”
A State Department spokesman tweeted that the agency is “engaged” with Qatari officials after Wahl’s death.
“We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl and send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication. We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible,” Ned Price wrote.