US football writer Wahl dies covering World Cup quarter-final

Grant Wahl was at the Netherlands vs Argentina match when he collapsed.

Wahl, 49, died while covering the Netherlands-Argentina match [Al Jazeera]

United States football is in mourning following the death of American football writer Grant Wahl who died while in Qatar covering the World Cup.

Wahl, 49, collapsed as he watched the Argentina vs Netherlands quarter-final from the press area of Lusail Stadium on Friday night, prompting fellow journalists to call for medical attention, according to an Associated Press report.

Wahl, who was taken out of the media section on a stretcher, was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Reporters who witnessed the incident said medics arrived on-scene quickly.

Wahl’s agent, Tim Scanlan, told Reuters news agency that the journalist had “appeared to suffer some kind of acute distress in the start of extra time” in the match.

“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, who was covering his eighth World Cup, had celebrated his 49th birthday on Wednesday.

“He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital,” the World Cup organising committee said in a statement, which did not list a cause of death.

“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.”

On Monday, Wahl wrote on social media about his ailing health, which required him to visit a medical centre in Qatar. He had mused that his gruelling work schedule surrounding World Cup coverage had adversely affected his wellbeing.

“My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you,” Wahl wrote on Substack.

“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.”

Wahl added that he had tested negative for COVID-19, for which he had regularly been screened for since arriving in Doha last month.

“I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis,” he added. “They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno.”

The US Soccer Federation said on Friday that it was “heartbroken” by Wahl’s death.

“We could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game, and its major protagonists,” the federation said in a statement.

Wahl had worn a rainbow T-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights to the USA World Cup opener against Wales on November 21 and wrote that security had refused him entry and told him to remove the shirt.

Wahl said that FIFA later apologised to him for the incident, which he said involved him being stopped for 25 minutes before he was allowed to enter the stadium.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies