Grant Wahl: Football reporter’s body arrives in US

Wahl died suddenly in Qatar while covering the 2022 World Cup

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The body and possessions of football journalist Grant Wahl were sent home to the US on Monday after his death last week while covering the World Cup in Qatar, a senior State Department official said.

Wahl’s body and his belongings arrived at New York’s John F Kennedy Airport about 8.30am, the official said.

They were accompanied by a consular official from the US embassy in Doha who had had custody of the writer's body since shortly after he collapsed during Friday’s match between Argentina and the Netherlands, and later died.

The official said the embassy in Qatar had been working with Wahl’s family to ensure the return went smoothly.

Wahl, an American journalist who helped to increase the popularity of football in the US and reported on some of the biggest stories in the sport, was 49.

Tributes have poured in since his death. On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken added his voice to the chorus of appreciation.

“I so appreciated Grant Wahl, whose writing captured not only the essence of the beautiful game but also the world around it,” Mr Blinken wrote on Twitter, about an hour after the repatriation was complete.

NBA player LeBron James took a moment after play on Friday to remember Wahl.

“I’ve always kind of watched from a distance even when I moved up in ranks and became a professional, and he went to a different sport,” said James, speaking at a postgame press conference.

“Any time his name would come up, I’ll always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building … It’s a tragic loss.”

Wahl had complained of respiratory problems earlier in the week and had been treated for a possible case of bronchitis.

He fell back in his seat in the Lusail Stadium media section during extra time in the game, prompting those next to him to call for help.

Emergency services workers responded quickly, treated him onsite for 20 or 30 minutes and then took him out on a stretcher.

The World Cup organising committee said he was taken to Doha’s Hamad General Hospital, but it did not state a cause of death.

Wahl's wife, Celine Gounder, said in a tweet that she was “in complete shock” and thanked Wahl's “soccer family” and their friends for their support.

Wahl wrote for Sports Illustrated for more than two decades and then started his own website.

He was a major voice for football during a time of increased interest after the US hosted the 1994 World Cup.

Wahl also brought a critical eye to the international organising bodies of the sport.

Meanwhile, the Doha-based Gulf Times reported that Al Kass TV photojournalist Khalid Al Misslam died suddenly while covering the World Cup on Saturday.

A tribute to journalist Grant Wahl on his assigned seat at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. AP

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Updated: December 13, 2022, 7:22 AM
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