World Cup: US reporter dies after collapsing at Argentina game
Grant Wahl, a highly regarded football journalist who wrote extensively on the game, died on Friday in Qatar, where he was covering the World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and the Netherlands in Doha.
Wahl’s agent, Tim Scanlan, confirmed the death in a phone interview. Scanlan said Wahl, who had been working for CBS Sports since 2021, went into acute distress in the closing minutes of the pulsating quarter-final.
Paramedics performed CPR at the scene before taking him away on a stretcher. The Wall Street Journal said Wahl apparently suffered a heart attack.
He is believed to have died, Scanlan said, at a hospital in Qatar or while he was being taken to one, after feeling unwell as the match proceeded.
“He wasn’t sleeping well, and I asked him if he tried melatonin or anything like,” Scanlan said. “He said, ‘I just need to, like, relax for a bit.’”
But Wahl was in the midst of his eighth World Cup, with an aggressive schedule of reporting and appearances.
Wahl’s wife, Dr Celine Gounder, a renowned epidemiologist and expert on diseases like Covid-19, tweeted: “I’m in complete shock.”
Wahl made headlines when he was detained in Qatar on Nov 21 by security staff after he wore a rainbow shirt to the opening match between the US and Wales, showing support for LGBTQ rights in a country where same-sex relations are outlawed.
The 48-year-old began his professional journalism career in 1996, at Sports Illustrated, where he worked for 24 years. He initially covered both college basketball and soccer – he wrote a famed 2002 Sports Illustrated cover story on LeBron James, who was then a junior in high school – but over the next two decades transitioned exclusively to soccer, attending and writing about each World Cup, growing in prominence as the sport grew 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,” the United States Soccer Federation said in a statement on Friday night.
Don Garber, commissioner of Major League Soccer, wrote that Wahl “was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable”.
In recent days, Wahl wrote about struggles with his health during a run of coverage that, he said, typically left room for about five hours of sleep a night.
He wrote on his website on Monday: “My body finally broke down on me.
“Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you.
“What had been a cold over the last 10 days turned into something more severe on the night of the USA-Netherlands game, and I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.
“I didn’t have Covid (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis.
“They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno.’‘
On Wednesday night, he hosted a gathering at his apartment to mark his birthday, which Scanlan said was on Thursday. - NYTIMES, AFP, REUTERS