Grant Wahl, perhaps the preeminent U.S. soccer journalist passed away at Qatar’s 2022 World Cup while covering his beloved sport. The independent journalist and long-time Sports Illustrated writer was covering the Argentina-Netherlands match when he went into what is believed to have been cardiac arrest in the press box. Medical assistance at Lusail Iconic Stadium did not result in his revival and it is believed he passed away either on his way to the hospital or there. CNN has a follow-up story here.
Wahl had been feeling poorly for several days leading to his passing and posted a short commentary about his ill health and what he was doing to address it given his long hours covering the cup for his personal brand. At his passing Wahl’s wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, confirmed his death and asked for privacy for her family to mourn him.
Wahl was one of the pioneers of soccer coverage in our country and one of the first to be a national reporter who focused exclusively on our sport. He wrote two well-received soccer books The Beckham Experiment (2009) about the British player’s time in the MLS and Masters of the Modern Game (2018) featuring interviews with top players discussing their playing styles. In 2013 Sports Illustrated launched Planet Futbol with Wahl as its lead and the site ran as a quality vehicle for the duration of his stay at the magazine before its standards took a dive without his leadership. In 2020 he was fired by new SI owners Maven for criticizing the company’s CEO who had demanded staff take pay cuts to maintain their jobs. He subsequently worked for an ESPN spinoff and was on contract for several sports broadcasters before developing his own newsletter and podcast for which he was reporting in Qatar.
Among Wahl’s most famous and humorous anecdotes was his running for the FIFA President’s job to challenge Sepp Blatter who he deemed to be a corrupt administrator of our sport and unworthy of the governing body’s top job. Wahl’s bid was serious and failed simply because he was unable to get the necessary confederation support for his candidacy. But his popularity and the effect of a non-football-administrator garnering serious attention in pursuit of the FIFA presidency resulted in the organization changing its election rules to ensure all confederations needed to support a candidate’s run.
Mr. Wahl will be missed by all of us soccer fans and journalists.
Photo: Grant Wahl’s twitter account profile picture used under Papa’s interpretation of “fair use.”