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US football journalist Grant Wahl dies while covering a World Cup game in Qatar

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Grant Wahl, a longtime football sportswriter, died in Qatar on Friday while covering the World Cup.

NPR national executive editor Russell Lewis tweeted that Wahl was covering the quarterfinal game between Argentina and the Netherlands when he died. Choice was 49.

Grant election in 2013.Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

Wahl was in a media area at Lusail Stadium when he “fell ill” and was treated locally by paramedics and taken to a hospital, a spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said.

The cause of death was not immediately available.

US Soccer said in its statement that the team was “heartbroken” by Wahl’s death.

“Fans of football and journalism of the highest quality knew that we could always count on Grant to provide insightful and entertaining stories about our game,” the organization said.

In a December 5 post on his personal website, Wahl said he felt ill and that medical staff at the World Cup had told him he probably had bronchitis. He said he was given antibiotics.

“My body eventually collapsed on me,” he wrote. “Three weeks of little sleep, lots of stress and lots of work can do that to you. What had been a cold for the past 10 days turned into something heavier on the night of the USA-Netherlands game and I could feel my upper chest taking a new one level of pressure and discomfort.”

His wife, dr. Celine Gounder, tweeted late Friday that the news was a “complete shock”.

“I’m so grateful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s football family and so many friends who reached out tonight,” she said.

The White House is in touch with Gounder, a senior administration official told NBC News. She reached out to Chief of Staff Ron Klain as a friend, asking for help contacting the US Embassy in Doha, which the National Security Council made possible, the official said.

The US State Department expressed its condolences to Wahl’s family, with whom they said they were in close contact. “We are working with senior Qatari officials to ensure his family’s wishes are met as soon as possible,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said said in a tweet. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted Saturday: “Grant Wahl has been an inspiration to many. Our thoughts are with his wife Dr. Celine Gounder and all those who loved him.”

The spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Committee said it was communicating with the US Embassy “to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in line with the family’s wishes.”

In his letter, Wahl had reflected on the extraordinary nature of a World Cup in Qatar, mentioning an incident on November 21 when he said he was stopped and detained by security forces for refusing to remove a t-shirt with a rainbow logo that meant solidarity with LGBTQ+ rights. Same-sex relationships are illegal in the country.

It happened when he arrived at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan to cover the USA-Wales game, Wahl later wrote.

Wahl said he was held for more than 30 minutes and refused to remove his shirt until a security commander came to release him and shake his hand.

He detailed the incident in an interview on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports.

“I was wondering what it’s like for Qataris who are here outside of the World Cups and being gay because I had to deal with that at an event that had global coverage,” Wahl told Mitchell.

Wahl had also written about the treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, where hundreds have reportedly died in the years leading up to the World Cup.

A native of Mission, Kansas, Wahl attended Princeton University as an undergraduate.

Wahl has covered at least 10 world championships and five Olympics, according to an MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference biography.

He was known for his work for Sports Illustrated and as a commentator for NPR. He wrote an acclaimed book about David Beckham’s foray into US soccer called The Beckham Experiment.

It was the first New York Times bestseller on the subject of football.

Sports Illustrated’s top editors said late Friday that he started there in 1996 and left in 2020 to pursue independent projects.

“We are shocked and devastated by the news of Grant’s death,” said SI Co-Editors Ryan Hunt and Stephen Cannella. “We were proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades. No writer in SI history has been so passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell.”

Numerous football associations paid tribute to Wahl. Gianni Infantino, the head of international football’s governing body FIFA, said in a statement that Wahl’s love of football “was immense and his coverage will be missed by all who follow the global game”.

The National Soccer Hall of Fame called few supported the idea of ​​honoring the greatest players as he did; Major League Soccer called Wahl’s passion for the game was immeasurable; and Angel City Football Club of Los Angeles called Football “is better because of him.”

“His commitment to sharing the stories of our beautiful game was second to none, but more importantly, his integrity, thoughtfulness and kindness were central to the way he lived,” said the National Women’s Soccer League in a opinion.

He was credited by some of Wahl’s readers with helping grow the sport’s fan base in the United States.

US soccer star Megan Rapinoe called the news “devastating” in a tweet, and Hall of Famer Abby Wambach tweeted that elections and football are “inextricably linked”.

“I’ve looked to Grant and his work for decades,” Wambach said. “Football history here in the United States has Grant’s name all over it.”

United States men’s soccer team captain Tyler Adams offered his “deepest condolences” to Wahl’s wife and family.

“As players we have tremendous respect for the work of journalists and Grant’s voice was a huge voice in football that has tragically fallen silent,” he tweeted.

LeBron James said he was “very fond of Wahl,” who wrote a Sports Illustrated cover story about him in high school.

“He was always pretty cool to be with. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron and reported to me over time before this… cover story came out. I’ve always kind of been watching from afar,” the NBA legend said at a news conference Friday night. “It’s a tragic loss. It’s unfortunate to lose someone as great as he is.”

Former World No. 1 tennis star Billie Jean King also paid tribute.

“It is heartbreaking to hear of the death of Grant Wahl. A talented journalist, Grant has been an advocate for the LGBTQ community and a prominent voice for women’s football. He used his platform to uplift those whose stories needed to be told,” she tweeted. “Prayers for his family.”

Film and television producer Franklin Leonard said Wahl’s importance to the game in the United States was difficult to measure.

“Unless you’re both an American and a fan of the beautiful game, it might be extremely difficult to understand the importance of Grant’s choice to the community of people who are,” he said tweeted“and honestly, I’m kind of at a loss to articulate it.”

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