Grant Wahl, one of the most prominent chroniclers of American soccer for more than two decades and a longtime writer for Sports Illustrated, died while covering the World Cup in Qatar on Friday night. He was 48.
Mr. Wahl was at the quarterfinal game between Argentina and the Netherlands in Lusail, north of Doha when he had what doctors at the scene called a cardiac arrest. In a post on social media, the U.S. Soccer Federation said that he had died.
As a journalist for almost 30 years, Mr. Wahl wrote about men’s and women’s soccer in the United States. He started in the early 1990s before Major League Soccer or a top-tier women’s professional league existed.
“It breaks the hearts of everyone in the U.S. Soccer family to hear that Grant Wahl has died,” the federation said. “Here in the U.S. Grant’s love of soccer and desire to make it a bigger deal in sports played a big part in getting people interested in and respecting our beautiful game.”
Soon after he graduated from Princeton, Mr. Wahl covered the 1994 World Cup which was held in the United States. He started working for Sports Illustrated in 1996 to write about soccer and college basketball. In 2002, he wrote the first cover story for the magazine about an Akron, Ohio, high school basketball player who seemed destined for stardom. He went by the name LeBron James.
Mr. Wahl worked for the magazine for 24 years which ended in 2020. During that time, the U.S. women’s national team became a global powerhouse the U.S. men’s team made it to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, and MLS got a lot of great players. David Beckham’s first book, “The Beckham Experiment,” was a New York Times bestseller. It was about his move to the LA Galaxy in 2006.
“I am so grateful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl’s soccer family and so many friends who have reached out tonight,” his wife Celine Gounder tweeted from her verified account. “I can’t believe it.”
Mr. Wahl was also a supporter of women’s soccer, and he spent years covering the U.S. women’s national team’s pay discrimination lawsuit against the national federation.
In Qatar where he was going to his eighth men’s World Cup, Mr. Wahl spoke out against the country’s laws that make it illegal to be gay as it got ready to host the biggest sports event in the world. On his way to the first game of the U.S. men’s team against Wales on November 21, Mr. Wahl said he was stopped at the stadium entrance because he was wearing a T-shirt with a rainbow design and refused to change. After about 30 minutes, Mr. Wahl was let in to cover the game and FIFA the world body in charge of soccer, later apologized for what happened.
U.S. Soccer said that Grant’s belief in the power of soccer to advance human rights was and will always be an inspiration.
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