Grant Wahl, one of the leading soccer writers in the United States, died suddenly while covering a World Cup game Friday in Qatar.
U.S. media seated near him said Wahl fell back in his seat in a section of Lusail Iconic Stadium reserved for journalists during extra time of the game between the Netherlands and Argentina, according to the Associated Press. Reporters adjacent to him called for assistance and said emergency services workers responded very quickly. The reporters were later told Wahl had died.
Wahl, 48, provided coverage for CBS Sports and wrote on Substack at GrantWahl.com.
Born in Mission, Kansas, Wahl graduated from Princeton University with a political science degree in 1996. He landed a job straight out of college at Sports Illustrated, which he described as a dream. He worked there for 24 years, most prominently covering soccer and college basketball.
News of Wahl's death was confirmed by his wife, Dr. Celine Gounder. "I'm in complete shock," she wrote.
— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA 🇺🇦 (@celinegounder) December 10, 2022
Tributes to the longtime SI writer poured in from around the soccer industry and greater sports world:
Fox starts Saturday coverage with tribute
Grant Wahl was a dedicated colleague and friend to so many at FOX Sports.
We remain shocked and saddened by his passing, and extend our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to his wife, family, friends and colleagues. pic.twitter.com/PmWVdftKZl
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 10, 2022
LeBron James speaks to 'tragic loss'
One of Wahl's cover stories at Sports Illustrated ended up becoming one of the most famous in the magazine's illustrious history – LeBron James' first cover in 2002, in which he was declared the "Chosen One."
"Very fond of Grant, and having that cover shoot, me being a teenager and him covering that, was a pretty cool thing," James, 37, said after the Lakers' game Friday night. "I've always kind of watched from a distance. It's a tragic loss. It's unfortunate to lose someone as great as he was."
— Subscribe to GrantWahl.com (@GrantWahl) April 18, 2020
Soccer world reacts
"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," U.S. Soccer said in a statement. "As important, Grant's belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all. Grant made soccer his life's work, and we are devastated he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us."
U.S. Soccer Statement On The Passing Of Grant Wahl: pic.twitter.com/CBp1mCK1mQ
— U.S. Soccer (@ussoccer) December 10, 2022
MLS commissioner Don Garber remembers passion
"We are shocked, saddened and heartbroken over the tragic passing of Grant Wahl. He was a kind and caring person whose passion for soccer and dedication to journalism were immeasurable," MLS Commissioner Don Garber wrote on Twitter.
Grant was an important member of the soccer community for more than two decades, and he will be deeply missed. Our heartfelt condolences are with his wife Celine, his family and loved ones.
— Don Garber (@thesoccerdon) December 10, 2022
Carli Lloyd, USWNT 'shocked'
USWNT great Carli Lloyd said she was "completely shocked" when she learned the news while attending the Philadelphia 76ers' game. "My heart goes out to his wife, family, friends and the soccer community. Truly heartbreaking," she wrote.
Learned of Grant Wahl’s passing while I was at the Sixers game. Completely shocked. My heart goes out to his wife, family, friends and the soccer community. Truly heartbreaking.
— Carli Lloyd (@CarliLloyd) December 10, 2022
"The soccer community lost a real one today. And for women’s soccer, one of the originals who helped drive our game forward. Grant Wahl never shied away from asking the tough questions, the right questions, the ones that got to the heart of the matter. He will be greatly missed," longtime USWNT standout Becky Sauerbrunn wrote.
The soccer community lost a real one today. And for women’s soccer, one of the originals who helped drive our game forward. Grant Wahl never shied away from asking the tough questions, the right questions, the ones that got to the heart of the matter. He will be greatly missed.
— Becky Sauerbrunn (@beckysauerbrunn) December 10, 2022
"Grant Wahl and soccer are inextricably linked," USWNT legend Abby Wambach wrote. "I have looked to Grant and his work for decades. The soccer story here in the US has Grant’s name all over it."
This is heartbreaking for me for so many reasons. Grant Wahl and soccer are inextricably linked. I have looked to Grant and his work for decades. The soccer story here in the US has Grant’s name all over it. We will miss you Grant and we can’t stop thinking about your family. https://t.co/Hv56lLgzxP
— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) December 10, 2022
"The game in America was lucky to be served by such a brilliant journalist and, in my time covering the US men’s and women’s teams, a kind and helpful companion. I can’t quite believe this," announcer Ian Darke wrote.
Have just woken in Doha to hear the shocking news that Grant Wahl has passed. The game in America was lucky to be served by such a brilliant journalist and , in my time covering the US men’s and women’s teams , a kind and helpful companion. I can’t quite believe this. RIP Grant.
— Ian Darke (@IanDarke) December 10, 2022
On behalf of myself and the @USMNT, we offer our deepest sympathy to @celinegounder & all those who mourn the loss of Grant Wahl. As players we have a tremendous amount of respect for the work of journalists, & Grant's was a giant voice in soccer that has tragically fallen silent https://t.co/RANXfTnQGj
— Tyler Adams (@tyler_adams14) December 10, 2022
Life is fragile and there is always a reminder in there to live each moment for what it is. Don’t worry about the past nor the future, take care of the now. It’s the only guarantee in life.
St Louis is still better than Kansas my friend. 💔💔💔
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) December 10, 2022
FIFA expresses condolences
FIFA President expresses condolences to family and friends of Grant Wahl pic.twitter.com/WoQJr5m9ja
— FIFA Media (@fifamedia) December 10, 2022
Tribute in the media tribune
Flowers and a portrait of Wahl were placed in the media tribune at Al Bayt Stadium ahead of the quarterfinal matchup between England and France.
Flowers and a portrait in memory of American journalist Grant Wahl are placed in the media tribune ahead of the quarterfinal matchup between England and France. @FIFAcom @FIFAWorldCup #FIFAWorldCup
📸: Clive Brunskill pic.twitter.com/EzUdib8E7A
— Getty Images Sport (@GettySport) December 10, 2022
Billie Jean King
Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Grant Wahl.
A talented journalist, Grant was an advocate for the LGBTQ community & a prominent voice for women's soccer.
He used his platform to elevate those whose stories needed telling.
Prayers for his family. https://t.co/mv9tWxOv5s
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) December 10, 2022
Peter King, other sports media colleagues react
"My God. God. This is awful. Grant Wahl combined true goodness, passion for his job, love of his game, and love of life," longtime Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King said on Twitter. "My heart aches for his wife Celine and his family. This is a heartbreaking night."
My God. God. This is awful. Grant Wahl combined true goodness, passion for his job, love of his game, and love of life. My heart aches for his wife Celine and his family. This is a heartbreaking night. https://t.co/Rn9DsfgNoz
— Peter King (@peter_king) December 10, 2022
Jenny Taft, reporter for Fox Sports covering the FIFA Men's World Cup in Qatar.
"I celebrated Grant’s birthday with him 2 nights ago. I can’t believe this is real. Grant was a friend, and always looked out for me. He cared deeply about the game and was excited to share that passion with everyone. Grant thank you for being you … you touched so many of us."
I celebrated Grant’s birthday with him 2 nights ago. I can’t believe this is real. Grant was a friend, and always looked out for me. He cared deeply about the game and was excited to share that passion with everyone. Grant thank you for being you … you touched so many of us.
— Jenny Taft (@JennyTaft) December 10, 2022
Tim Layden, another longtime SI staffer, said that Wahl "grew into one of best of us."
"I don’t know how else to say this: He cared about things. About everything," Layden wrote.
Grant Wahl was my colleague and my friend in the SI family. He was young enough to have fact-checked me (superbly) right out of Princeton and then grew into one of best of us. I don’t know how else to say this: He cared about things. About everything.
— Tim Layden (@ByTimLayden) December 10, 2022
"Just a devastating tragedy that is impossible to fathom," SI's Jimmy Traina, another former colleague of Wahl's, wrote.
I just can't believe this is real. I was colleagues with Grant Wahl for so many years and he was always so incredibly nice and supportive and fun to chat with in the office. Just a devastating tragedy that is impossible to fathom.
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) December 10, 2022
Longtime ESPN broadcaster Bob Ley wrote that Wahl "did more to inform and explain and celebrate the beautiful game than any other American. Ever. Full stop."
"His loss is incalculable to our profession," Ley added.
Generous of spirit, a peerless journalist, #grantwahl did more to inform and explain and celebrate the beautiful game than any other American. Ever. Full stop. His loss is incalculable to our profession. Prayers for his family.
— Bob Ley (@BobLeyESPN) December 10, 2022
"Grant was an exceptional journalist and a tremendous friend, colleague and ambassador for the game of soccer," wrote CBS Sports.
The CBS Sports family sends its heartfelt condolences and mourns the tragic passing of Grant Wahl. pic.twitter.com/RWSNq8wux7
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 10, 2022
"Grant Wahl was everything a great journalist should strive to be, and an even better person. The best of us," ESPN's Jay Bilas wrote.
Heartbreaking. Grant Wahl was everything a great journalist should strive to be, and an even better person. The best of us. https://t.co/obOBOwLAPC
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) December 10, 2022
Grant Wahl was my friend, one of the nicest, most truly decent people I have ever had the opportunity to work with. I am flattened. https://t.co/tOd1ET6TZj
— Will Leitch (@williamfleitch) December 10, 2022
Grant Wahl was a terrific reporter. Fearless. Dedicated. Cared. Devastating news.
— Jeremy Schaap (@JeremySchaap) December 10, 2022
I know this about Grant Wahl: He was a person of passion, conviction, integrity and courage. He was the kind of journalist and writer everyone admired. He was so kind to me when I was a nobody and we happened to share a city.
Honor him by being fearless in the pursuit of truth.
— Kevin Van Valkenburg (@KVanValkenburg) December 10, 2022
Absolutely incomprehensible news about soccer writer extraordinaire Grant Wahl. You could feel the joy in his words just a few days ago as when he wrote about being honored by FIFA as one of a handful of journalists worldwide to cover at least eight World Cups. This cannot be ... https://t.co/LidyPARU1B
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 10, 2022
Grant Wahl was incredibly smart, just remarkably smart, with a passion for writing about soccer that uniquely connected with fans. What an absolutely fearless reporter and tremendous friend thru the years. Stunned and saddened tonight. Thoughts are with Celine and his family.
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) December 10, 2022
I'm devastated by the loss of Grant Wahl. He was a peerless journalist and kind man whose coverage of soccer was fair an fearless.
The best way all of us can honor him is do what he did throughout his distinguished career:
Pursue the truth, without fear or favor, always.
— Don Van Natta Jr. (@DVNJr) December 10, 2022
Contributing: Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grant Wahl's death sparks outpouring of love across sports world