The death of prominent journalist Grant Wahl at the World Cup in Qatar has sent shock and grief through the sports world, with NBA star LeBron James and tennis great Billie Jean King leading the charge. tributes to the American.
Wahl, 49, died after collapsing while covering Friday’s Argentina-Netherlands match. The circumstances of his death are unclear.
King said Wahl’s death was “heartbreaking”.
“A talented journalist, Grant was an advocate for the LGBTQ community and a leading voice for women’s football,” King said. tweeted Saturday. “He used his platform to uplift those whose stories needed to be told. Prayers for his family.
On Friday in Philadelphia, basketball star James said he “liked Grant a lot.” While Wahl was at Sports Illustrated, he did a cover on James when James was in high school.
“I always watched from afar even when I came up through the ranks and turned professional, and went to a different sport,” James said in a post-match press conference. . “Every time his name would come up, I would always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building… It’s a tragic loss.”
Tyler Adams, captain of the United States men’s national soccer team, which was knocked out of the World Cup by the Netherlands in the round of 16, sent his “heartfelt condolences” to Wahl’s wife , Céline Gounder, and those who knew her.
“As players we have enormous respect for the work of journalists, and Grant was a giant voice in football who tragically died out,” Adams said. wrote on Twitter.
Qatar World Cup organizers said on Saturday that Wahl “became ill” in the press area, where he received “immediate medical treatment on site”.
He was later transferred to Hamad General Hospital, said a spokesman for the Supreme Court’s Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the body responsible for planning the tournament.
Wahl was treated in the stadium “for about 20 to 25 minutes” before being transferred to hospital, World Soccer Magazine columnist Keir Radnedge told CNN on Saturday.
“It was towards the end of extra time in the game. Suddenly colleagues to my left started shouting for medical assistance. Obviously someone had collapsed. Because the chairs are freestanding, people were able to move the chairs around, so it’s possible to create some space around him,” Radnedge said.
He added that the medical team were there “rather quickly and were able, as best they could, to give treatment”.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre responded to Wahl’s death on Saturday, adding that senior State Department officials were in contact with Qatari officials and Grant’s family.
“Grant Wahl was an inspiration to many. Our hearts go out to his wife Dr. Céline Gounder and all who loved her. State Department officials are in contact with Grant’s family and with senior Qatari government officials to ensure his family receives the support they need,” Jean-Pierre wrote on Twitter.
“Just a few days ago, Grant was recognized by FIFA and AIPS (the International Sports Press Association) for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups,” the president said. of FIFA, Gianni Infantino, in a press release.
Infantino and FIFA media director Bryan Swanson were in hospital on Saturday offering any kind of support needed to family, friends and journalists who were also his roommates in Qatar.
The co-editors of Sports Illustrated, the publication where Wahl spent most of his career, said in a joint statement that they were “shocked and devastated by the news of Grant’s passing.”
“We were proud to call him a colleague and a friend for two decades – no writer in the history of (Sports Illustrated) was more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell” , the statement said.
He added that Wahl first joined the publication in November 1996. He volunteered to cover the sport as a junior journalist – before he achieved the heights of global popularity he now enjoys. – eventually becoming “one of the most respected football authorities in the world”. world,” he said.
The statement said Wahl has also worked with other outlets, including Fox Sports. After leaving Sports Illustrated in 2020, he began publishing his podcast and newsletter.
Other current and former American soccer players, including Ali Krieger and Tony Meola, shared their condolences, as did sports bodies such as Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League.
Wittyngham, co-host of Wahl’s podcast, told CNN on Saturday that the news of his death had been difficult to take in.
“For Americans, Grant Wahl is the first person you read about football. He was kind of the only person for a while…Grant was the first person to really pay attention to the sport in a meaningful way” , said Wittyngham.
Several journalists have reported stories alongside Wahl and met him at several World Cups over the years.
“Before he became the best roofer in football, he used to do hoops and was so nice to me,” famous broadcaster Dick Vitale wrote.
Timmy T. Davis, the US Ambassador to Qatar, tweeted that Wahl was “a well-known and well-respected journalist who focused on the beautiful game.”
“The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” US Soccer said in a statement on its official Twitter account.
“Grant has made football his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing are no longer with us.”
US Soccer praised Wahl’s passion and “belief in the power of the game to advance human rights”, and shared condolences with Wahl’s wife and loved ones.
Gounder also posted US Soccer’s statement on Twitter.
“I am so grateful for the support of my husband Grant Wahl’s football family and so many friends who reached out to me tonight. I am completely in shock,” wrote Gounder, a former CNN contributor who served on the Biden-Harris Covid-19 transition advisory board.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department was in “close communication” with Wahl’s family. World Cup organizers also said they were in contact with the US Embassy “to ensure that the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the wishes of the family”.
Wahl had covered football for more than two decades, including 11 World Cups – six men’s, five women’s – and wrote several books on the sport, according to his website.
He had just celebrated his birthday earlier this week with “a great group of media friends at the World Cup,” according to a post on his official Twitter account, which added: “Very grateful for everyone.”
In an episode of the Futbol podcast with Grant Wahl, published a few days before his death on December 6, he complained of being unwell.
“It had gotten pretty bad in terms of tightness in my chest, tightness, pressure. I feel kind of hairy, bad,” Wahl told co-host Chris Wittyngham in the episode. He added that he had sought help from the medical clinic at the World Cup media centre, believing he had bronchitis.
He was given cough syrup and ibuprofen and felt better soon after, he said.
Wahl also said he experienced an “involuntary surrender of my body and mind” after the Dutch-American game on December 3.
“It’s not my first rodeo. I did eight in the men’s,” he said at the time. “And so, I got sick to some degree every tournament, and it’s just about trying to find a way to love doing your job.”
He further described the incident in a recent newsletter published on December 5, writing that his body had “collapsed” after little sleep, high stress and a heavy workload. He had had a cold for 10 days, which “turned into something more serious”, he wrote, adding that he was feeling better after being given antibiotics and catching up on sleep.
Wahl made headlines in November when he reported that he had been detained and briefly refused entry to a World Cup game because he wore a rainbow t-shirt in support of children’s rights. LGBTQ.
He said security personnel told him to change his shirt because “it’s not allowed” and took his phone. Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received an apology from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the stadium security team.
Afterwards, Wahl told CNN he’ll “probably” wear the shirt again.