By RONALD BLUM
LUSAIL, Qatar (AP) — Grant Wahl, an American journalist who helped boost soccer’s popularity in the United States and reported on some of the sport’s biggest stories, died Saturday while covering a FIFA World Cup match. world between Argentina and the Netherlands. He was 48 years old.
Wahl fell back into his seat in a reporters’ section of Lusail Stadium during extra time, and reporters next to him called for help.
Rescuers responded very quickly, treated him for 20 or 30 minutes at the scene, then pulled him out on a stretcher, said Keir Radnedge, a veteran British sports journalist who worked nearby at the time.
The World Cup organizing committee said he was taken to Hamad General Hospital in Doha, but did not give a cause of death. “We are in contact with the United States Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure that the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the wishes of the family,” he said in a statement.
Wahl, who wrote for Sports Illustrated for a decade and then launched his own website, was a major voice informing an American audience about soccer during a time of heightened interest after the United States hosted the 1994 World Cup. He also took a critical look at the organizational bodies of international sport.
Wahl attempted to run for the FIFA presidency against Sepp Blatter and Mohamed bin Hammam in 2011. He promised to open FIFA to greater transparency and said he contacted 150 countries without gaining support for a nomination.
He “really helped put soccer on the mainstream sports map in the United States,” Radnedge said.
“Grant had a strong moral compass, of where sport should be and how sport…should help set standards for people,” he said. “There was no doubt that Grant was on the side of the good guys in wanting football to get the best out of itself.”
Wahl was covering his eighth World Cup. He wrote on his website on Monday that he visited a medical clinic while in Qatar.
“My body finally crumbled on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and a lot of work can do this to you,” Wahl wrote. turned into something more serious on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest taking on a new level of pressure and discomfort.”
Wahl wrote that he tested negative for COVID-19 and sought treatment for his symptoms.
“I went to the main media center medical clinic today, and they said I probably had bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and cough syrup, and I feel already a little better a few hours later. But still: No bueno,” he wrote.
Wahl tweeted Wednesday that he celebrated his birthday that day.
“We could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game and its main protagonists,” the United States Soccer Federation said in a statement. “Grant’s passion for football and his commitment to raising his profile in our sporting landscape has played a major role in helping to generate interest and respect for our beautiful game.”
Wahl’s wife, Dr Celine Gounder, tweeted that she was grateful for the support of her husband’s “football family” and friends who had reached out to her.
“I am completely in shock,” wrote Gounder, who is an associate professor at New York University School of Medicine, an attending physician at Bellevue Hospital Center and a CBS News contributor.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a tweet that US officials were in contact with Qatari authorities “to ensure that his family’s wishes are granted as soon as possible”.
Wahl wore a rainbow t-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights during the USA World Cup opener against Wales on November 21 and wrote that security denied him entry and told him to take the shirt off. Gay and lesbian sex is criminalized in Qatar, a conservative Muslim emirate.
Wahl wrote that he was held for 25 minutes at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, then released by a security commander. Wahl said FIFA apologized to him.
Among Wahl’s work before he started covering football exclusively was a Sports Illustrated cover story about LeBron James in 2002, when James was a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary High in Akron, Ohio.
“It’s always been pretty cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron,” James said in Philadelphia after the Los Angeles Lakers lost in overtime to the 76ers. “Every time his name came up, I would always think back to me as a teenager having Grant in our building in St. V’s. It is a tragic loss. It’s unfortunate to lose someone as great as him. I wish the best to his family. May he rest in paradise.
A voter in the annual FIFA awards, Wahl was among 82 journalists honored last week by FIFA and the international sports press association AIPS for attending eight or more World Cups.
“His love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow world football,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
Wahl graduated from Princeton in 1996 and worked for Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, known primarily for his coverage of college football and basketball. He then launched his own website, Fútbol with Grant Wahl, and a podcast with Meadowlark Media.
Wahl also worked for Fox Sports from 2012 to 2019 and was hired by CBS Sports in 2021 as an analyst and editorial consultant. Wahl wrote the 2009 book “The Beckham Experiment” after English football star David Beckham joined Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, and the 2018 book “Masters of Modern Soccer”.
His death at the World Cup left fellow journalists covering the matches stunned.
“You come to a World Cup as a journalist to work, to share the stresses, the pressures but also the pleasures and the fascination of it – and to share that with your readers, your listeners, your viewers. is what Grant was doing, that’s what he loved to do. Everyone recognized that enthusiasm in him,” Radnedge said.
“So for him to no longer be with us at such a young age is a huge shock.”
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