FIFA president Gianni Infantino expresses his ‘disbelief and intense sadness’ at the sudden death of US sports journalist Grant Wahl at the World Cup – two weeks after he was refused entry to a Qatar stadium for wearing a rainbow t-shirt
FIFA president Gianni Infantino has spoken of his ‘disbelief and intense sadness’ after US sports journalist Grant Wahl passed away suddenly at the World Cup.
The American, 48, was working on the Holland vs Argentina quarter-final in Doha on Friday when he collapsed in his seat – with his brother suggesting he was murdered.
And Infantino expressed his condolences in an official statement, just two weeks after Wahl was detained before the USA vs Wales group-stage game for wearing a pro-gay rainbow flag t-shirt.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino (L) has revealed his sadness after the death of Grant Wahl (R)
The American sports journalist (above) passed away while working at the World Cup on Friday
He said: ‘It is with disbelief and immense sadness that I have been made aware of the passing of renowned sports journalist Grant Wahl, whilst reporting on a quarter-final match during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
‘Only some days ago, Grant was recognised by FIFA and AIPS for his contribution to reporting on eight consecutive FIFA World Cups, and his career also included attendance at several FIFA Women’s World Cups, as well as a host of other international sporting events.
‘His love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the global game.
‘On behalf of FIFA and the football community, we express our sincerest condolences to his wife Céline, his family, and his friends at this most difficult time.’
Wahl, who first reported on the World Cup in his home country in 1994 and had reported on every subsequent tournament, was recently honoured at a FIFA-AIPS event, where he received an award from two-time World Cup winner, Ronaldo.
The news comes two weeks after Wahl was detained for wearing a pro-gay rainbow flag t-shirt
His agent, Tim Scanlan, told the New York Times that Wahl had gone into acute distress in the final minutes of a quarterfinal match, which he was covering from the press tribune.
US media seated near him said Wahl fell back in his seat in the media tribune at Lusail Iconic Stadium during extra time and reporters adjacent to him called for assistance. Emergency services workers responded very quickly, the reporters said, and his colleagues were later told that he had died.
Rafael Cores, a journalist for Univision who was sitting next to Wahl at the match, wrote: ‘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. My deepest condolences to Grant Wahl’s family.’
He was ‘healthy’ before he collapsed during a game Friday, according to brother Eric in an Instagram video he posted. Eric, who is gay, said through tears he believes his brother may have been killed.
He said: ‘I am the reason he (Grant) wore the rainbow shirt to the world cup. I do not believe my brother just died, I believe he was killed.’
Pictured: He was recently honoured at a FIFA-AIPS journalists’ event, where he received an award from two-time World Cup winner and Brazilian football legend Ronaldo Nazario (right)
Grant Wahl had spoken about feeling under the weather in an episode of his podcast – Futbol with Grant Wahl – recorded on Thursday.
He said on the podcast: ‘My body finally broke down on me. 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 wrote that he tested negative for COVID-19 and sought treatment for his symptoms.
‘I went into the medical clinic at the main media center today, and they said I probably have bronchitis. They gave me a course of antibiotics and some heavy-duty cough syrup, and I’m already feeling a bit better just a few hours later. But still: No bueno,’ he wrote.
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