Soccer journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl dies while covering Qatar World Cup

Journalist Grant Wahl, a Kansas City native in Qatar covering the 2022 FIFA World Cup, has died.

Wahl’s death was confirmed by U.S. Soccer Friday evening in the United States.

“The entire U.S. Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl,” U.S. Soccer said in a statement.

Wahl’s wife Dr. Celine Gounder tweeted, “I’m in complete shock.”

Wahl, a 48-year-old graduate of Shawnee Mission East High, apparently died after covering the Argentine-Netherlands game on Friday in Lusail, Qatar. Wahl had tweeted during the game, played Friday afternoon Central Time.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. media seated near him during the game said Wahl, who was covering his eighth World Cup, fell back in his seat during extra time and reporters near him called for assistance.

The reporters said emergency workers responded quickly and the reporters were told that Wahl had died.

No official information on the cause of Wahl’s death had been released by government or police officials, or World Cup representatives, as of 9:30 p.m. Friday night.

Wahl was hired by Sports Illustrated in 1996 to cover college basketball and soccer. He has worked for Fox Sports, and was contributing to CBS Sports while writing his blog Futbol with Grant Wahl on during the World Cup.

Kansas City Current co-owners Chris and Angie Long went to Princeton with Wahl, and Chris Long said on twitter that Wahl played a role in creating the expansion franchise.

“Angie and I are devastated,” Long said. We have together known (Wahl) for 30+ yrs. (The Current) wouldn’t exist without having had Grant’s advice. He was our first call. He is a legend. His words were always insightful, honest, powerful but his actions made all our lives better.”

Wahl wrote that he had been to the medical clinic twice during his stay and offered more details about an apparent illness.

“My body finally broke down on me,” Wahl wrote. “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.”

Wahl was not afraid to tackle tough topics off the pitch. The heading on a recent blog post: “They just don’t care. Qatari World Cup organizers don’t even hide their apathy over migrant worker deaths, including the most recent one.”

Wahl’s brother, Eric, was the first to announce that Grant Wahl had died. Eric Wahl said in a social media post Friday evening that he believes his brother’s passing occurred under suspicious circumstances. Wahl had worn a rainbow shirt to USA’s World Cup opener against Wales to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community and support for Eric, who is gay.

“My brother was healthy,” Eric Wahl said on his Instagram account. “He told me he received death threats.”

The AP reported rainbow-colored armbands, shirts and other items have been a focus of attention during the tournament, in part over Qatar’s stance on LGBTQ rights. Gay and lesbian sex is criminalized in Qatar, a conservative Muslim nation on the Arabian Peninsula. Wahl said FIFA later apologized to him over the incident.

The AP contributed to this report.