US sports reporter dies suddenly while covering World Cup

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By Euronews  with Reuters
Grant Wahl smiles as he holds a World Cup replica trophy during an award ceremony in Doha, Qatar on Nov. 29, 2022.
Grant Wahl smiles as he holds a World Cup replica trophy during an award ceremony in Doha, Qatar on Nov. 29, 2022.   -   Copyright  Brendan Moran/FIFA 2022

A US sports reporter has died after collapsing suddenly at the World Cup. 

Grant Wahl, 48, fell to the ground as extra time began in the Argentina-Netherlands game on Friday night.

Qatar’s World Cup organizers said on Saturday that Wahl “fell ill” in the press area, where he received “immediate medical treatment on site.”

Early reports suggest he may have had a heart attack, but this has yet to be officially confirmed.

Wahl was briefly detained by authorities in Qatar for wearing a rainbow shirt, in solidarity with the LGBT+ community earlier in the month. Homosexuality is criminalised in Qatar. 

Tributes have poured in for the veteran sports correspondent, who wrote a book on David Beckham, a British footballer. 

US Soccer said it was "heartbroken to learn" of Wahl's death. 

It praised Wahl’s “belief in the power of the game to advance human rights,” offering condolences to his wife Celine Gounder and their loved ones.

Gounder responded to the US Soccer statement on Twitter, saying she was "in complete shock".

Wahl wrote to subscribers of his internet newsletter that he had visited a clinic in Qatar earlier in the week. 

"My body is finally giving up on me," he wrote. "Three weeks with little sleep, a lot of stress and work can have that effect on you ... I could feel my upper chest taking on a new level of pressure and discomfort."

Qatar's World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), paid tribute to Wahl's "enormous love of football" and offered condolences to his family, friends and media colleagues.

Wahl, a former writer for Sports Illustrated who moved to the Substack online publishing platform, had been tweeting about the Netherlands-Argentina match earlier on Friday.

His agent, Tim Scanlan, told reporters that Wahl had "appeared to suffer some kind of acute distress in the start of extra time" at the quarter-final match.

Scanlan said attempts were made to revive Wahl in the press box before he was taken to a local hospital, where he was confirmed dead.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the department was in “close communication” with Wahl’s family. 

World Cup organisers also said they were in touch with the US embassy “to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes.”

Wahl had covered football for more than two decades, including 11 World Cups, and authored several books on the sport, according to his website.

He had just celebrated his birthday earlier this week.