Witnesses recount football journalist Grant Wahl’s final moments at the World Cup
- US News
- December 11, 2022
- No Comment
“Every once in a while you hear the sharp panic in someone’s voice and you know that death and its friends are near,” London Sunday Times reporter Josh Glancy coolly recalled Grant Wahl’s sudden death of the World Cup, “probably America’s best-known” football writer.
Glancy was then, along with a horde of other sportswriters, fascinated by the thrilling Dutch football clash against Argentina early on Saturday in Doha, Qatar.
But then a “panic voice” yelled from the press box, “We need a paramedic!” Glancy reported in the Times on Saturday.
“We all turned and saw right behind us a man in terrible distress who was clearly suffering from some sort of attack or seizure. We yelled for a paramedic,” Glancy wrote.
Keir Radnedge, a columnist for World Soccer Magazine, also told CNN that colleagues close to him called for medical attention after Wahl, 48, collapsed. Chairs were moved to make room for Wahl so medics could assist him, he recalled.
Paramedics quickly arrived and Glancy said he was “temporarily reassured” and hoped it was just a fleeting seizure or an allergic reaction to something. But when they began CPR, indicating Wahl’s heart had stopped, the entire press gallery was “stricken with fear,” Glancy said.
AL KHOR, QATAR – DECEMBER 10: Flowers and a picture in memory of Grant Wahl, an American sportswriter who died while covering the match between Argentina and the Netherlands, are laid ahead of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarterfinal match between England and Qatar places France at Al Bayt Stadium on December 10, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Hector Vivas – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Hector Vivas – FIFA via Getty Images
A first-aid-trained journalist and two medics continued to take turns pumping Wahl’s chest, he said. Two New York Times reporters who were at the scene said medics performed chest compressions and other treatments for about 20 minutes before Wahl was whisked out of Doha’s Lusail Iconic Stadium.
Shockingly, there was no defibrillator, Glancy said. “Why wasn’t there a defibrillator? That was the question we kept asking ourselves while the medics pumped and pumped in vain,” Glancy wrote.
Wahl’s friends from different parts of the press box gathered around him. One of them, football journalist Guillem Balague, murmured: “It’s not real.”
Eventually Wahl was taken away on a stretcher with his face covered. Just minutes earlier, he had laughed and excitedly tweeted about the game.
“Thank god my friend,” Balague later tweeted. “When I’m asked what journalism is, I’ll say your name. Your loyalty, sense of humor, affection, your dress code! will never be forgotten,” he added, referring to a rainbow shirt Wahl wore that angered Qatari authorities.
“You left us way too soon,” Balague added. “There was still so much to write, to live and to discuss.”
Thank god my friend @GrantWahl
Whenever I’m asked what journalism is, I’ll use your name
Your loyalty, sense of humor, affection, your dress code! will never be forgotten
You were taken from us way too soon. There was still so much to write, to live and to discuss 😥 pic.twitter.com/0WaclxRF4a
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) December 10, 2022
A cause of death has not yet been determined. Wahl had reportedly complained of being unwell and having trouble sleeping for days.
Wahl was a football analyst for CBS Sports and a longtime reporter for Sports Illustrated. He has been an outspoken critic of Qatar and its oppression of the LGBTQ community. He posted a photo of himself in a rainbow flag t-shirt ahead of the United States v Wales game – for which he was briefly arrested. He said his phone was “snatched from his hands” by a guard and he was told to remove his shirt. Same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar.
Family, friends, colleagues and sports fans were devastated by Wahl’s death.
“The entire US soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we lost Grant Wahl,” said an unsigned expression by the United States Soccer Federation. “His writing and the stories he told will live on.”