LeBron James leads tributes after US sports journalist Grant Wahl dies in Qatar

By Sports Desk December 10, 2022 587

LeBron James is among those to have paid tribute to Grant Wahl following the American sports journalist's death while covering the World Cup in Qatar.

Wahl was in attendance at Friday's quarter-final tie between Argentina and the Netherlands at Lusail Stadium when he took ill in the media tribune.

The 48-year-old was a correspondent for CBS Sports and had previously worked for Sports Illustrated, where he did a cover story on the then up-and-coming James 20 years ago.

"I'm very fond of Grant and having that cover shoot – me being a teenager and him covering that, it was a pretty cool thing," Los Angeles Lakers star James told reporters following his side's 133-122 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

"Even when I moved up in the ranks and became a professional and he kind of went to a different sport and things of that nature over the years, anytime his name would come up I would always think back to me as a teenager and having Grant in our building down at St. V. It's a tragic loss.

"It's unfortunate to lose someone as great as he was and I wish his family the best. And may he rest in paradise."

No further details surrounding his death have been released.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said in a statement: "It is with disbelief and immense sadness that I have been made aware of the passing of renowned sports journalist Grant Wahl, while 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 Celine, his family, and his friends at this most difficult time."

The US Soccer Federation added: "The entire US Soccer family is heartbroken to learn that we have lost Grant Wahl.

"Here in the United States, Grant's passion for soccer and commitment to elevating its profile across our sporting landscape played a major role in helping to drive interest in and respect for our beautiful game. 

"As important, Grant's belief in the power of the game to advance human rights was, and will remain, an inspiration to all. Grant made soccer his life’s work, and we are devastated that he and his brilliant writing will no longer be with us."

Wahl wrote in his Substack column on Monday he had visited a medical clinic in Qatar after feeling unwell.

"My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you," he wrote. 

"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. 

"I didn't have COVID (I test regularly here), but 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."

US State Department spokesman Ned Price confirmed on Friday that talks are ongoing with senior Qatari officials "to see to it that [Wahl's] family's wishes are fulfilled as expeditiously as possible."

Wahl was at the centre of controversy earlier in the World Cup when he was initially prevented from entering Ahmad bin Ali Stadium for the United States v Wales match as was wearing a rainbow shirt. He was eventually allowed into the stadium.

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Last modified on Saturday, 10 December 2022 07:16
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