The football world has been rocked by the tragic and sudden death of American journalist Grant Wahl, who passed away while covering the World Cup in Qatar. He was only 48. Wahl made headlines at the start of the World Cup after revealing on social media that he'd been detained for wearing a rainbow shirt to one of the stadiums, while covering the tournament.
Initial details around the journalist's death are scarce, however, Yahoo Sports US soccer reporter Henry Bushnell was present during Argentina's quarter-final victory over the Netherlands when he observed Wahl seemingly unconscious in his press box seat at Lusail Stadium. Medics worked on Wahl for approximately 30 minutes before taking him out on a stretcher.
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Wahl was working as an independent journalist at the World Cup, and wrote a story before his death that was critical of Qatar's attitude towards the death of migrant workers. He wrote: “They just don’t care. Qatari World Cup organisers don’t even hide their apathy over migrant worker deaths, including the most recent one,” in response to the worker recently killed in a forklift accident.
The governing body of football in America, Soccer USA, confirmed the news of his tragic death on social media, with his devastated brother later claiming that foul play may have been involved after claiming that he'd received "death threats".
“The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” the US Soccer Federation said in a statement. “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.”
Wahl's wife Céline Gounder said she was in "complete shock" after also confirming the tragedy on social media. She said the outpouring of messages she had received from family, friends and the wider football community was overwhelming.
— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA 🇺🇦 (@celinegounder) December 10, 2022
Wahl had earlier made headlines at the World Cup after revealing he had been arrested and briefly detained while covering the tournament in Qatar, for refusing to remove a rainbow shirt he was wearing. He was eventually released by Qatari officials.
However, in a shocking twist after news of his death, Wahl's brother Erik appeared in a video message that is circulating on social media, in which he claims foul play may have been behind his brother's death. In the chilling video, Erik chokes back tears after claiming that his brother was healthy and had worn the rainbow shirt in support of him.
“My name is Eric Wahl, I live in Seattle, Washington. I am Grant Wahl’s brother. I’m gay and the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup,” he said in the video.
“My brother was healthy. He told me he had received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died, and I just beg for any help.”
Absolutely bone chilling stuff
Soccer journalist Grant Wahl who was kicked out of a stadium in QATAR for this shirt has reportedly collapsed and passed away during the Argentina game today
His brother says on Instagram that Grant was fully healthy & believes there’s foul play pic.twitter.com/t47C2XfuVl
— JACK SETTLEMAN (@jacksettleman) December 10, 2022
For the past two decades, Wahl was on the forefront of soccer journalism in America, first as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated before branching out as a television analyst for CBS and Fox Sports. His impact was widely felt in the United States where soccer remains a growing sport.
Wahl often wielded that influence. He once announced a bid to unseat corrupt FIFA president Sepp Blatter and was fired from Sports Illustrated in 2020 after criticising publisher CEO James Heckman's handling of pay cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Football world rocked by Grant Wahl's tragic death
Not surprisingly, his shock death has sent reverberations across the football world, with fans shocked and saddened by the tragic development. Tributes have been pouring in on social media for the 48-year-old journalist who clearly touched the lives of many.
Grant Wahl was the first soccer writer I can remember reading on the internet, and pushed harder to make Americans love the sport like he did. It worked. I hope he knows that.
A horrendous loss.
— BUM CHILLUPS AKA SPENCER HALL (@edsbs) December 10, 2022
We are shocked, saddened and heartbroken over the tragic passing of Grant Wahl. He was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable. pic.twitter.com/ohJoZlGfk0
— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) December 10, 2022
Can't go anywhere in US soccer circles without bumping into someone Grant Wahl was good to -- anything from a quick hello & some kind words to some meaningful career advice. Just a truly good guy.
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) December 10, 2022
Grant Wahl was extremely kind to me when we were the only two U.S. journalists covering Euro 2004. He shared his deep knowledge of the sport enthusiastically with me that month. I never forgot his kindness — and the lesson in that for all of us. RIP.
— Steve Politi (@StevePoliti) December 10, 2022
I am at a loss for words…. Grant Wahl was more than just *THE* soccer guy….. he was extremely kind and welcoming to everyone in the soccer world and most importantly- he was brave and when people didn’t have a voice he raised his for them.
— Rachel Bonnetta (@rachelbonnetta) December 10, 2022
There will be a mountain of attention on this -- far too early to know how he died, but Grant Wahl (a wonderful soccer writer) had just published a piece about migrant deaths in Qatar and drew attention for the reaction by security guards when he tried to wear a pride shirt. https://t.co/JtaFRlw78F
— Matthew Smith (@MattSmithFOX13) December 10, 2022
Grant Wahl’s reporting from Qatar has been essential, including taking the government to task for its homophobia and horrific working conditions. Now he is dead, suddenly, in Qatar at the age of 48. Read his recent work here: https://t.co/71ZrAtasqH https://t.co/WO7S2WLInM
— John Green (@sportswithjohn) December 10, 2022
I’ll wait to pass judgement but Grant Wahl was reporting on the ugly side of the World Cup in Qatar and has mysteriously passed away while there. That is far too suspicious.
Thoughts to his family. Just terrible.
— Rachel Doerrie (@racheldoerrie) December 10, 2022
with Yahoo Sports US
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