LUSAIL, Qatar (NEXSTAR) — American sports journalist Grant Wahl died while covering the World Cup in Lusail, Qatar early Saturday morning.
American media said Wahl, known for his longtime writing for Sports Illustrated, was unable to be revived after falling ill while covering a match between Argentina and Netherlands, Associated Press reports. The 48-year-old soccer writer said he’d gone to the hospital only Monday, writing that his “body finally broke down.”
While Wahl said he tested negative for COVID-19, he was told he likely had bronchitis and was prescribed antibiotics and cough syrup. Wahl ended the statement explaining he felt “a bit better… but still: No bueno.”
Wahl’s death was confirmed by U.S. Soccer on Friday night. In a statement, the organization said, in part:
“Grant made soccer his life’s work and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us… we thank Grant for his tremendous dedication to and impact on our game in the United States. His writing and the stories he told will live on.”U.S. Soccer
Wahl recently made headlines during his time in Qatar after tweeting that he’d been detained and denied entry due to wearing a “rainbow soccer ball T-shirt” in support of the LGBTQ community. Qatar has well-known anti-LGBTQ policies, including potential prison time as punishment for gay sex acts. CNN reports Wahl was allowed entry shortly later and that a FIFA representative apologized.
Nevertheless, Wahl told CNN he would “probably” wear the shirt again because he had “no fear here about any of this,” underlining the importance of being an ally and backing up his gay family and friends.
The CBS Sports contributor was also highly critical of Qatar’s use of migrant workers to make the World Cup happen. The country has faced international backlash for workers’ living conditions and deaths, in addition to the nearly 2 million migrant labor workers employed under the kafala labor system.
On Thursday, Wahl wrote via his Substack newsletter Fútbol with Grant Wahl: “Qatari World Cup organizers don’t even hide their apathy over migrant worker deaths, including the most recent one.”
FIFA confirmed the death with an apology. Meanwhile, Qatar 2022 World Cup chief executive Nasser Al Khater responded to questions about the death by saying, “We’re in the middle of a World Cup. And we have a successful World Cup. And this is something you want to talk about right now?”
While Al Khater offered “condolences” to the man’s family, the executive said “death is a natural part of life.”
Wahl, who wrote for Sports Illustrated from 1996 to 2021, just celebrated his birthday on Dec. 7, saying: “No games today but very thankful for everyone.”
Sports Illustrated co-editors in-chief Ryan Hunt and Stephen Cannella released a joint statement Friday night, saying in part: “We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades—no writer in the history of SI has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell… He will always be part of the SI family.”
Wahl is survived by his wife Dr. Céline Gounder and their two dogs, SI explains.
Gounder, an associate professor at New York University School of Medicine, thanked supporters and friends Friday night, adding that she was “in complete shock.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.