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US sportswriter Grant Wahl, 48, dies while covering World Cup game in Qatar

An American sportswriter has died while covering the World Cup in Qatar.

Grant Wahl, 48, a former Sports Illustrated journalist who later moved to podcast publishers, Substack, died while reporting at the match between Argentina and the Netherlands.

World football’s governing body FIFA said the journalist had recently been recognised for covering eight consecutive World Cups and heard of his death with “disbelief and immense sadness”.

Basketball legend LeBron James paid tribute to Mr Wahl, who featured him in a cover story for Sports Illustrated in 2002.

“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. He was always pretty cool to be around,” he said.

US reporters sitting near Mr Wahl said he fell back in his seat during extra time, in a part of the stadium reserved for journalists.

They had called for assistance and, while emergency services responded very quickly, they were later told that Mr Wahl had died.

No further details have been released about his death.

His wife Dr Celine Gounder thanked those who had “reached out tonight”, but added on Twitter: “I’m in complete shock.”

Mr Wahl said last month that 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.

Same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar.

Detained for wearing rainbow shirt

He said on Twitter that he was detained for 25 minutes for wearing the shirt, with security guards “forcibly” taking his phone and demanding that he remove the shirt before going into the stadium.

He said he had refused.

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Mr Wahl also wrote on Monday that he had visited a hospital in Qatar, saying: “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.

“I didn’t have COVID (I test regularly here), but I went into the medical clinic at the main media centre today, and they said I probably have bronchitis.

“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.”

US ‘engaged with senior Qatari officials’

US State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted late on Friday: “We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Grant Wahl and send our condolences to his family, with whom we have been in close communication.

“We are engaged with senior Qatari officials to see to it that his family’s wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible.”

US Soccer said: “The entire US soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl.

“Fans of soccer and journalism of the highest quality knew we could always count on Grant to deliver insightful and entertaining stories about our game and its major protagonists: teams, players, coaches and the many personalities that make soccer unlike any sport.”

A spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) said: “We are deeply saddened by the death of the US journalist Grant Wahl.

“Grant was known for his enormous love of football and was in Qatar to cover his eighth FIFA World Cup.”