US soccer journalist Grant Wahl dies in Qatar, brother suspects foul play

Grant Wahl, outspoken in his opposition to Qatar hosting the World Cup, died Friday while covering the tournament in Doha.

A Qatar 2022 logo is seen in front of the skyline of the West Bay in Doha ahead of the FIFA World Cup, November 10, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/JOHN SIBLEY/FILE PHOTO)
A Qatar 2022 logo is seen in front of the skyline of the West Bay in Doha ahead of the FIFA World Cup, November 10, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JOHN SIBLEY/FILE PHOTO)

Well-known US soccer journalist Grant Wahl, died on Friday after suffering "acute distress" while covering a match at the World Cup in Qatar, his agent said.

US Soccer said it was "heartbroken to learn" of Wahl's death. His wife responded to the US Soccer statement on Twitter, saying she was "in complete shock."

Qatar's World Cup organizers, 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 Sports Illustrated sportswriter who moved to the Substack online publishing platform, had been tweeting about the Netherlands-Argentina match earlier on Friday.

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

 Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - Netherlands v United States - Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 3, 2022 United States players applaud fans after the match as United States are eliminated from the World Cup  (credit: REUTERS/ANNEGRET HILSE) Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - Netherlands v United States - Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar - December 3, 2022 United States players applaud fans after the match as United States are eliminated from the World Cup (credit: REUTERS/ANNEGRET HILSE)

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.

"We are in touch with the US Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes," the SC spokesperson said.

FIFA, soccer's world governing body, and Qatar’s international media office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"Everyone's emotional and it's really traumatic," Scanlan said. "He was a true advocate for both the men's and women's games and really just cared deeply about the sport. He was empathetic and just truly a brilliant writer."

Wahl said in late November he was briefly detained when he tried to enter a World Cup stadium in Qatar while wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ community in a country where same-sex relations are illegal.

He said World Cup security denied him entry to the United States' opener against Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan and asked him to take his shirt off.

Wahl's last moments

Wahl wrote on Monday that he had visited a hospital while in Qatar.

"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," he posted on Substack.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter the department had been in close communication with Wahl's family.

"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."

Grant Wahl

"We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible," said Price.

The US soccer community shared in an immediate outpouring of grief over the news.

"He was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable," Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber said in reaction to news of Wahl's death.

"This is so devastating," twice World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe said on Twitter. "All the love to his family and loved ones."