A week before its conclusion, the World Cup is facing very difficult days. Renowned US journalist Grant Wahl collapses and dies during the quarter-finals between Argentina and the Netherlands. He had previously complained of bronchitis. His brother doesn't want to believe that.
The well-known US journalist Grant Wahl is dead. The 49-year-old died early on Saturday during the quarter-finals of the World Cup between Argentina and the Netherlands. Wahl had collapsed in his chair towards the end of the first half of extra time. The reporters sitting next to him immediately called for help. Paramedics and doctors soon arrived on the steep stands of Lusail Stadium. But any help came too late for the journalist.
"Grant has made football his life's work and we are devastated that he and his brilliant pen are no longer with us," the Football Association said. "The entire football family in the United States is heartbroken." His widow, Celine Gounder, said she was "in complete shock."
Wahl was one of the best-known US sportswriters. The tournament in Qatar was the eighth World Cup that he covered as a reporter. Wahl, who had 850,000 followers on Twitter, recently mentioned on his website that the health conditions in the emirate were causing him problems. "My body has now given up after all. Three weeks with little sleep, a lot of stress and a lot of work can do that to you," he wrote. Wahl complained of pain in the upper chest area: "I've had a cold for the last 10 days. It got worse the night of the USA-Netherlands game."
He ruled out an infection with the corona virus. He tested himself regularly. During a visit to the medical area of the World Cup media center, he was given an antibiotic and a strong cough syrup. "They said I probably had bronchitis." He had visited the medical field again on Thursday, Wahl said in his podcast. "I'm doing a little better, but I'm still not at 100 percent. I have to cough a lot. Everyone here has to cough a lot, not just me, so many journalists have such a hard cough. It sometimes sounds like a death rattle."
Wahl had gained international notoriety through an incident during the World Cup. At the USA vs Wales game, he tried to come into the stadium wearing a rainbow t-shirt in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. This led to a 25-minute interrogation at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium. He was later let go and FIFA apologized to him. In his last post on his website, Wahl dealt with the death of a construction worker in the training camp in Saudi Arabia and the cold reaction of the organizers of the World Cup. "They just don't care," began his post. He continued, "We know this because the CEO of the Supreme Committee, Nasser Al Khater, said everything there was to know with stunning directness."
His brother, Eric Wahl, explained on Instagram that he was the reason for Wahl's commitment to LGBTQ rights. He's queer himself. "My brother was healthy. He told me he had received death threats. I don't think he just died like that. I think he was murdered." However, the observations in the stands of the Lusail Stadium and the previous history do not suggest this at first glance.
A US State Department spokesman offered his condolences to the journalist's family and wrote on Twitter: "We are working with senior Qatari officials to ensure his family's wishes are fulfilled as soon as possible."
Wahl began his journalism career in 1996. He wrote for Sports Illustrated about college basketball and soccer. In 2002 he was responsible for the first LeBron James cover photo in the renowned magazine. He soon concentrated exclusively on football, which was also growing in the USA. He became an authority and also reported regularly on the German Bundesliga and the US players there.
The world of US sports and US entertainment was initially deeply shocked by the death of the journalist. "My deepest condolences to his family," said basketball superstar LeBron James. "It's a tragic loss. It's terrible to lose such a great person. May he rest in paradise." Brendan Hut, one of the stars of the US series "Ted Lasso" wrote on Twitter: "I sit here and am shocked by the terrible news. He was an incredible person. This is a tragic and devastating loss." MLS commissioner Don Garber wrote that Wahl's contributions to football and journalism are immeasurable.