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CBS Sports Analyst Grant Wahl Dies in Qatar During World Cup

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVDecember 10, 2022

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08:  Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl speaks on a panel discussion at the 2014 Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival New York, presented by Budweiser, on April 8, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Budweiser)
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Budweiser

Longtime soccer journalist Grant Wahl, who was covering the World Cup for CBS Sports in Qatar, died on Thursday while reporting on the quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands.

Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA 🇺🇦 @celinegounder

I am so thankful for the support of my husband <a href="https://twitter.com/GrantWahl?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GrantWahl</a>'s soccer family &amp; of so many friends who've reached out tonight.<br><br>I'm in complete shock. <a href="https://t.co/OB3IzOxGlE">https://t.co/OB3IzOxGlE</a>

Russell Lewis @rdlewis

NPR can confirm the death of longtime soccer sportswriter Grant Wahl (<a href="https://twitter.com/GrantWahl?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@GrantWahl</a>). He died today in Doha, Qatar while covering the Argentina-Netherlands World Cup quarterfinal. Story to come.

Ned Price @StateDeptSpox

We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl and send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication. We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family's wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.

A cause of death has not been released publicly.

According to the Associated Press, "U.S. media seated near him said Wahl fell back in his seat in the media tribune at Lusail Iconic Stadium during extra time, and reporters adjacent to him called for assistance. Emergency services workers responded very quickly, the reporters said, and the reporters later were told that Wahl had died."

Wahl wrote on Monday that he had been sick for about 10 days, attributing it to being overworked and not getting much sleep while covering the World Cup before his symptoms eventually got bad enough that he went to a medical clinic in Qatar.

"I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis," he wrote. "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."

He said he tested negative for COVID-19.

Before the United States' matchup with Wales on Nov. 21, Wahl posted on social media that he was not initially granted access to Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium for wearing a shirt with a rainbow encircling a soccer ball:

Subscribe to GrantWahl.com @GrantWahl

I'm OK, but that was an unnecessary ordeal. Am in the media center, still wearing my shirt. Was detained for nearly half an hour. Go gays 🌈 <a href="https://t.co/S3INBoCz89">https://t.co/S3INBoCz89</a>

Subscribe to GrantWahl.com @GrantWahl

Free to read: What happened when Qatar World Cup security detained me for 25 minutes for wearing a t-shirt supporting LGBTQ rights, forcibly took my phone and angrily demanded that I remove my t-shirt to enter the stadium. (I refused.) Story: <a href="https://t.co/JKpXXETDkH">https://t.co/JKpXXETDkH</a> <a href="https://t.co/HEjr0xzxU5">pic.twitter.com/HEjr0xzxU5</a>

Wahl told Kevin Dotson and Ben Morse of CNN after the incident that he had been given assurances he would be allowed to wear such clothing into the stadium. He further explained his decision to wear the shirt:

It's really important to me and it's not required by any stretch of the imagination. I've got family members who are gay. I've got friends who are gay. I've got journalist friends who are gay who are here in Qatar. But you don't need that to be supportive, to be an ally. So, I was thinking about all of those people yesterday. I was thinking about Colorado Springs. I was thinking all sorts of stuff. And if I have to be detained for 30 minutes, it's kind of annoying. But it's not an issue for me. And so I was glad to at least help out a little bit.

Wahl wasn't alone in dealing with issues while attempting to wear pro-LGBQT+ clothing into Qatar's stadiums:

Laura McAllister 🌻 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 @LauraMcAllister

So, despite fine words from <a href="https://twitter.com/FIFAWorldCup?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@FIFAWorldCup</a> before event <a href="https://twitter.com/Cymru?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Cymru</a> rainbow Bucket hats confiscated at stadium, mine included. I had a conversation about this with stewards - we have video evidence. This <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldCup2022?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldCup2022</a> just gets better but we will continue stand up for our values 🌈

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, though the country publicly stated that it would welcome all fans to the World Cup.

Wahl had also written about other issues in Qatar. Yesterday, he posted an article critical of the Qatari response to another death of a migrant worker at the World Cup.

Sportswriters and prominent figures from the soccer world offered tributes to Wahl and sent condolences after learning of his death on Friday:

Don Garber @thesoccerdon

Grant was an important member of the soccer community for more than two decades, and he will be deeply missed. Our heartfelt condolences are with his wife Celine, his family and loved ones.

Mina Kimes @minakimes

Grant Wahl was unbelievably kind to everyone, but I was especially touched by how warm and welcoming he was towards my mom when he realized she was a huge soccer fan. Heartbreaking news. <a href="https://t.co/v99QlQayoi">https://t.co/v99QlQayoi</a>

Chris Wittyngham @ChrisWittyngham

Grant Wahl was kind. Needlessly kind. I love him and I'll miss him.<br><br>He treated me with a level of respect I didn't deserve. He gave me an opportunity when I needed one. And most importantly he was kind. Needlessly kind<br><br>I'll miss him. I'm devastated beyond words

Rachel Bonnetta @rachelbonnetta

The soccer community will be devastated and will be missing a gigantic hole. Sending love to all of those who read his words and enjoyed his company… I sure did. 💕⚽️

Brian Phillips @brianphillips

Grant Wahl was my friend and was one of the most generous, kind, and encouraging people I knew in or out of sports media. He was such a bright presence; I never talked to him without feeling a little better about the world afterward. This is crushing. <a href="https://t.co/PexnfvmZbC">https://t.co/PexnfvmZbC</a>

Jeremy Schaap @JeremySchaap

Grant Wahl was a terrific reporter. Fearless. Dedicated. Cared. Devastating news.

Barry Petchesky @barry

Grant Wahl was the best we had. How awful this is.

Seth Wickersham @SethWickersham

This Grant Wahl news is so, so awful. He was one of the best soccer writers and before that, one of the best college basketball writers. Such a cool guy, total gentleman. RIP.

Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76

Can't go anywhere in US soccer circles without bumping into someone Grant Wahl was good to -- anything from a quick hello &amp; some kind words to some meaningful career advice. Just a truly good guy.<br><br>Heartbroken tonight.

Chris Mannix @SIChrisMannix

There are too many examples of Grant Wahl's kindness as an SI colleague to recount here. As great a writer as he was, Grant was an even better person. Prayers with his wife and family, who he loved and was so proud of.

Wahl's career included stops at Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and CBS Sports, spending time covering college basketball, the Olympics and, most prominently, soccer.