A widely-known US sports reporter — who made headlines when he was detained at the Qatar World Cup for wearing a rainbow shirt — died Friday while covering the quarter finals in Doha, according to his wife and the US Soccer federation.
Grant Wahl, 48, helped build soccer’s popularity in the United States through decades of vivid reporting at Sports Illustrated, then with CBS Sports for whom he was covering Friday’s Argentina-Netherlands match at Lusail Stadium.
According to NPR, Wahl collapsed in the press tribune as the match was winding down. Paramedics performed CPR at the scene before taking him away on a stretcher. The Wall Street Journal said Wahl apparently suffered a heart attack.
“Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us,” US Soccer said in a statement.
It said that the “entire US Soccer family is heartbroken” by Wahl’s passing.
Wahl’s wife Celine Gounder, a renowned epidemiologist and expert on diseases like Covid-19, tweeted: “I’m in complete shock.”
Wahl was detained in Qatar on 21 November by security staff after he wore a rainbow shirt to the opening match between the US and Wales teams, showing support for LGBTQ rights in a country where same sex relations are outlawed.
Wahl in 1996 joined Sports Illustrated, at the time the premiere US sports publication, to report on soccer. He remained at the magazine until 2020, joining CBS Sports a year later.
News of his death triggered an outpouring of emotion from the soccer world.
“Fans of soccer and journalism of the highest quality knew we could count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game, and its major protagonists: teams, players, coaches and that many personalities that make soccer unlike any sport,” US Soccer said.