Grant Wahl, a respected journalist known as the voice of soccer for US fans, died suddenly on Friday in Qatar while covering a World Cup fixture between the Netherlands and Argentina. He was 48.
Wahl was known as a sharp critic of human rights abuses in football, and made headlines when he was briefly detained before another match November for wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGTBQ+ community, so speculation ran rampant that foul play had been involved in the reporter’s sudden death.
Here’s what we know about Wahl’s death.
Witnesses say Wahl, who covered 11 men’s and women’s World Cup tournaments, collapsed in the press box at Lusail Stadium.
Medics on-site treated him for about half an hour before he was rushed by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital in Doha, according to the World Cup organizing committee.
Journalist Rafa Cores said Wahl seemed in high spirits not long before his death.
“I’m in shock,” Mr Cores wrote on Twitter. “I was sitting next to him tonight. He was working on his story on his laptop, it was about 4 minutes before the end of the extra time. He was laughing at a joke we saw on Twitter only minutes earlier. I can’t believe it.”
Initially, Mr Wahl’s brother suggested foul play was involved in the death.
“I am gay. I am the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup,” Eric Wahl initially wrote on Instagram. “My brother was healthy. He told me he received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed, and I’m just begging for any help.”
However, on Tuesday, Eric Wahl said on Twitter he no longer suspected foul play or a pulmonary embolism.
The US State Department reiterated this point, with spokesperson Ned Price saying in a statement on Monday there was “no indication of foul play or anything nefarious at this point.”
“We did receive excellent cooperation from our Qatari partners as soon as we learned of Grant Wahl’s passing,” he added. “Our ambassador … was in regular contact with senior officials in the Qatari government in an effort to see to it that we were in a position to fulfill the wishes of the family as expeditiously as possible.”
On Monday, Wahl’s remains were repatriated for an independent autopsy in New York, and are in possession of the New York City medical examiner.
In podcast appearances and writings on his website before his death, Wahl described being sick with a nasty case of bronchitis.
“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 his site. “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.”
The reporter said he went multiple times to the medical clinic at the World Cup media centre and was given cough syrup and ibuprofen, which temporarily relieved his symptoms.
Wahl also said he was testing negative for Covid.
The Wahl family has said they will share additional information about the death on Tuesday.
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