By Miguel A. Melendez‍ , ETOnline.com.

Grant Wahl, a renowned journalist whose perceptive coverage of soccer helped elevate the game as the sport was beginning to grow in the United States, died Friday in Qatar, where he was covering the World Cup. He was 48.

According to multiple reports, the former Sports Illustrated senior writer was in the press box covering the final minutes of the quarterfinal match between Argentina and the Netherlands at Lusail Iconic Stadium when he suddenly collapsed. Wahl’s agent, Tim Scanlan, told the New York Times Wahl went into “acute distress.”

Two New York Times journalists present at the scene said medical personnel performed chest compressions for about 20 minutes before he was taken out of the stadium.


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Scanlan told the outlet he believed Wahl died either at the hospital in Qatar or on his way there. Wahl, who was covering his eighth World Cup, had previously written on his personal website that he was not feeling well over the last couple of weeks.

During the early part of the tournament, Wahl revealed that his illness, initially thought to be a common cold, “turned into something more severe.” He said he could feel his “upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort.”

Wahl also revealed he tested negative for COVID-19 and was later told he may have been suffering from bronchitis. With the help of medication, Wahl said he caught up on some much needed sleep and continued covering the tournament.

Wahl’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, an infectious disease expert who worked on then-President-Elect Joe Biden’s transition team, confirmed the news Friday night on Twitter when she subtweeted the U.S. Soccer Federation’s statement. She wrote, “I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s soccer family & of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight. I’m in complete shock.”

The U.S. Soccer Federation’s statement read, in part, “Here in the United States, Grant’s passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in and respect for our beautiful game.” The statement added, “Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”

Wahl, a Princeton graduate, began his career as an intern at the Miami Herald before landing a role at Sports Illustrated in 1996. He quickly rose the ranks at the illustrious magazine and worked there for more than two decades. Wahl, always one to jump at the opportunity to mentor cub reporters and who stood up against pay inequality for his colleauges, also worked for FOX Sports and CBS Sports.

Primarily a soccer journalist, Wahl was also a respected basketball writer. He wrote numerous cover stories for the magazine but gained notoriety when his story landed a then-high school junior LeBron James on the cover with the headline splashed across reading “The Chosen One.”

Following Friday night’s game in Philadelphia, the Lakers star opened up about Wahl during his post-game news conference.

“I’m very fond of Grant and having that cover shoot — me being a teenager and him covering that, it was a pretty cool thing,” James told reporters. “and he was always pretty cool to be around. He spent a lot of time in my hometown of Akron covering me over the course of time before that cover story came out. And I’ve always kind of watched from a distance.”


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He continued, “Even when I moved up in the ranks and became a professional and he kind of went to a different sport and things of that nature over the years, anytime his name would come up I would always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building down at [St. Vincent-St. Mary High School]. So, it’s a tragic loss. It’s unfortunate to lose someone as great as he was and I wish his family, like I said, the best. And may he rest in paradise.”

For those unfamiliar with his brilliant writing might instead recall a photo of Wahl that recently went viral, after he was kicked out of a stadium in Qatar for wearing a rainbow shirt. He was briefly detained by security officials, and FIFA ultimately apologized for the incident. While the cause of death is not known, Wahl’s brother, Eric, took to social media and posted a video in which he suspected foul play.

“My name is Eric Wahl. I live in Seattle, Washington. I am Grant Wahl’s brother. I am gay,” he said in the video. “I am the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup. My brother was healthy. He told me he received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed, and I just beg for any help.”


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According to multiple reports, a State Department official said U.S. officials are in contact with Wahl’s family and are “engaged with senior Qatari officials to see it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.”

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Ellen Bullock