American journalist Grant Wall has died after collapsing at the world championships in Qatar
Renowned American journalist Grant Wall has died in Qatar after collapsing while covering the World Cup, causing an outpouring of shock and grief across the sporting world.
He “collapsed” while covering the Argentina-Netherlands match on Friday, a witness told CNN.
World Cup organizers in Qatar said on Saturday that Wall “fell ill” in the press room, where he received “immediate medical attention at the scene”. He was then transferred to Hamad General Hospital, said a spokesman for the Supreme Court’s Commission on Handover and Succession, the body responsible for planning the tournament.
The circumstances surrounding his death are not clear.
“The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wall,” US Soccer said in a statement on its official Twitter account.
“Grant made football his life’s work and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us.”
US Soccer praised Wall’s passion and “belief in the power of the game to protect human rights” and shared its condolences with Wall’s wife, Celine Gunder, and his loved ones.
Gounder also posted US Soccer’s statement on Twitter.
“I am so grateful for the support of my husband Grant Wall’s football family and so many friends who reached out tonight. I am in complete shock,” wrote Gunder, a former CNN contributor who served on the Biden-Harris Covid-19 transition advisory board.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the department was in “close communication” with Wall’s family. World Cup organizers also said they were in contact with the US embassy “to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the wishes of the family”.
Wahl has covered soccer for more than two decades, including 11 World Cups, and is the author of several books on the sport, according to his website.
He had just celebrated his birthday earlier this week with “a great group of media friends at the World Cup,” according to a post on his official Twitter account, which added: “So grateful to everyone.”
In an episode of the Futbol podcast with Grant Wall, published days before his death on December 6, he complained of feeling unwell.
“It had gotten pretty bad in terms of the tightness in my chest, the tightness, the pressure. I feel pretty hairy, bad,” Wall told co-host Chris Whittingham in the episode. He added that he sought help at the World Cup media center clinic, thinking he had bronchitis.
He was given cough syrup and ibuprofen and felt better shortly after, he said.
Wall also said he experienced an “involuntary surrender of his body and mind” after the Dec. 3 USA-Netherlands game.
“This is not my first rodeo. I’ve done eight of those on the men’s side,” he said at the time. “And I’ve kind of gotten sick to some degree every tournament and I’m just trying to find a way to get the job done.”
He further described the incident in a recent newsletter published on December 5, writing that his body “broke down” after he had little sleep, severe stress and heavy workload. He had a cold for 10 days that “turned into something worse,” he wrote, adding that he was feeling better after getting antibiotics and catching up on sleep.
Wahl made headlines in November when it was reported that he was detained and briefly denied entry to a World Cup match for wearing a rainbow t-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights.
He said security told him to change his shirt because it was “not allowed” and took his phone. Wahl said he was released 25 minutes after being detained and received an apology from a FIFA representative and a senior member of the stadium’s security team.
Afterward, Wall told CNN that he “probably will” wear the shirt again.
Wahl’s death has rocked the football and sports journalism community, with many sharing tributes on social media.
“Just a few days ago, Grant was recognized by FIFA and AIPS (Association Internationale d’Sports Press) for his contribution to the coverage of eight consecutive FIFA World Cups,” FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement.
The co-editors-in-chief of Sports Illustrated, the publication where Wall spent most of his career, said in a joint statement that they were “shocked and devastated by the news of Grant’s death.”
“We’ve been proud to call him a colleague and friend for two decades — no writer in (Sports Illustrated) history has been more passionate about the sport he loved and the stories he wanted to tell,” the statement said.
It added that Wall first joined the publication in November 1996. He volunteered to cover sports as a junior reporter – before reaching the heights of global popularity he now enjoys – eventually becoming “one of the most respected soccer authorities in the world,” it said.
The statement said Wall has also worked with other media outlets, including Fox Sports. After leaving Sports Illustrated in 2020, he began publishing his podcast and newsletter.
On Friday in Philadelphia, basketball star LeBron James said he “really likes Grant.” While Wall was at Sports Illustrated, he did a cover story on James when James was in high school.
“I’ve always kind of watched from a distance, even when I came up through the ranks and went pro and he went to another sport,” James said in a postgame press conference. “Every time his name comes up, I’ll always think back to myself as a teenager and how Grant was in our building… It’s a tragic loss.”
Other current and former American football players, including Ali Krieger and Tony Meola, shared their condolences, as did sports organizations such as Major League Soccer and the National Women’s Soccer League.
Wittyngham, co-host of Wahl’s podcast, told CNN on Saturday that the news of his death was hard to take.
“For Americans, Grant Wall is the first person they read covering football. He was kind of the only guy for a while … Grant was the first guy to really pay real attention to this sport in a meaningful way,” Whittingham said.
Several journalists shared stories of reporting alongside Wahl and meeting him at multiple world championships over the years.
“Before he was the best football coverage, he made hoops and was so nice to me,” wrote the famous broadcaster Dick Vitale.
Timmy T. Davis, the US ambassador to Qatar, tweeted that Wall was “a well-known and highly respected reporter who focuses on the beautiful game.”
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