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Grant Wahl: American sports journalist who died covering the World Cup documented migrant deaths and LGBT+ rights

Grant Wahl, a prominent American sports journalist known for his long history covering American football and the World Cup, died after collapsing in his seat while covering the quarter-final match between Argentina and the United States. Netherlands on December 9.

The news of his death sent a wave of grief and shock through the sports world, noting his more than two decades as an ambitious force within the famous sports magazine Sports Illustrated and his defense of human rights that have fueled his work.

The magazine’s co-editors said in a joint statement that they were “shocked and devastated by the news of Grant’s passing”.

“We were proud to call him a colleague and a friend for two decades – no writer in the history of [Sports Illustrated] was more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” the statement read.

He had first joined the publication in 1996, volunteering to cover football as a junior journalist, eventually becoming “one of the most respected authorities on football in the world”, according to the editors’ statement.

Wahl left the magazine in 2020 and began publishing on a podcast and newsletter Substack, where one of his final dispatches criticized the government of Qatar and the World Cup committee for working conditions. horrors and deaths of workers.

“When a country does not take the time to properly investigate up to 70% of migrant worker deaths, it is a sign: They do not care,” he wrote.

In a high-profile incident at this year’s events, Wahl was arrested by Qatari security guards at a stadium when he arrived wearing a rainbow soccer ball t-shirt.

He wrote that security guards refused to let him in, detained him for 25 minutes and demanded he remove his shirt.

“The whole episode had me wondering: what does it look like for ordinary Qataris who might be wearing a rainbow shirt when the world isn’t looking here?” he wrote. “How is?”

Wahll – whose career has spanned 11 World Cups – had celebrated his birthday earlier this week, surrounded “by a large group of media friends at the World Cup”, he wrote. “Very grateful for everyone.”

He also recently wrote and discussed the health issues he faced in the days leading up to his death, including chest pains and what looked like a cold that turned into “something more serious”. .

“My body finally collapsed on top of me,” he wrote earlier this week. “Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and a lot of work can do this to you.”

In an episode of his Soccer with Grant Wahl podcast which was released on December 6, published on December 6 a few days before his death, he had complained of “tightness in the chest, tightness, pressure. Feeling quite hairy, bad.

He said he received medical attention from the World Cup media center believing he had bronchitis. He said he was given cough syrup and ibuprofen and felt better soon after.

Wahl also said he experienced an “involuntary surrender of my body and mind” during the Dutch-American game on December 3,

“It’s not my first rodeo. I did eight in the men’s,” he said at the time. “I got sick to some degree every tournament, and it’s just about trying to find a way to… do your job.”

His wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, wrote that she is “completely in shock” as she shared a statement from US Soccer.

“I am so grateful for the support of my husband’s football family. [and] of so many friends who have reached out,” she said.

Chris Wittyngham, co-host of Wahl’s podcast, told CNN the news of his death was hard to take in.

“For Americans, Grant Wahl is the first person you read about football,” he said. “He was kind of the only person for a while…Grant was the first person to really pay attention to the sport in a meaningful way.”

Grant Wahl was presented with a replica World Cup trophy by soccer legend Ronaldo at an awards ceremony in Qatar on November 29.


US Soccer “is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl”, the the organization wrote.

“Fans of the highest quality football and journalism knew we could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game and its main protagonists: teams, players, coaches and the many personalities who make football a different sport.”

FIFA President Gianni Infantino noted in a statement that Wahl was among the sportswriters recently honored by the organization and the International Sports Press Association “for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups. “.

Current and former football stars and statements from others in the sports world shared their condolences and tributes.

“Numb. Shocked. Devastated to hear the news about Grant Wahl,” wrote former US national team goaltender Tony Meola.

“The world has lost a caring human being,” he said. “I met Grant as a young journalist and then had the pleasure of working with him the last time [World Cup]. He loved people, life and our sport. May your soul rest in peace Grant.

The great tennis player Billie Jean King I called him a “talented journalist” and “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 added. “Prayers for his family.”

Ali Krieger, former United States Women’s National Team player I called him an “inspiration to our football community and all who were lucky enough to meet him”.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the agency was in “close communication” with Wahl’s family.

World Cup organizers are also in contact with the US Embassy “to ensure that the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the wishes of the family”.

The Independent Gt

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