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American soccer sportswriter Grant Wahl died of an aneurysm at the Qatar World Cup

Grant Wahl with a World Cup replica trophy, in recognition of his achievement covering 8 or more FIFA World Cups, during a ceremony at the Main Media Centre on Nov. 29 in Doha, Qatar.
Brendan Moran
FIFA via Getty Images
Grant Wahl with a World Cup replica trophy, in recognition of his achievement covering 8 or more FIFA World Cups, during a ceremony at the Main Media Centre on Nov. 29 in Doha, Qatar.

An autopsy has revealed American soccer sportswriter Grant Wahl died of an ascending aortic aneurysm.

His wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, revealed the cause of death — a burst blood vessel — during an appearance Wednesday on CBS Mornings.

His body and belongings were flown back to New York City on Monday, where an autopsy was performed at the NYC medical examiner's office.

In a statement, Dr. Gounder said, "No amount of CPR or shocks would have saved him. His death was unrelated to COVID. His death was unrelated to vaccination status. There was nothing nefarious about his death."

Wahl was covering Friday's Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinal match at the World Cup in Doha, Qatar. The 48-year-old collapsed during the game at the press tribune inside Lusail Stadium. Paramedics rushed to perform emergency care and after about 30 minutes, he was taken to a local hospital.

He had gotten sick in Qatar before his death. Last week he had written he'd visited a medical clinic twice and the staff believed he had bronchitis.

"My body finally broke down on me," Wahl wrote. "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." He was prescribed antibiotics and said they were helping.

His death reverberated throughout the journalism community. He was remembered not only as a reporter who spoke truth to power but also as a colleague who helped journalists — young and old — with their craft. He was a huge advocate for soccer (both men's and women's) who cared passionately about human rights. He spent most of his career with Sports Illustrated(24 years) and in 2021 branched out on his own.

He appeared regularly on CBS, CNN and on NPR.

His brother, Eric Wahl, told NPR Grant had received death threats at this World Cup because he wore a rainbow shirt in support of gay rights (same-sex relationships are illegal in Qatar) and also for Grant's continued critical reporting on FIFA and how the Qataris had been running the tournament.

Wahl is one of three journalists who has died while covering the World Cup since it began on November 20. The first was ITV sports director Roger Pearce, who "passed away suddenly" last month inside his hotel. The most recent was a Qatari photojournalist with Al Kass TV, Khalid al-Misslam, who "died suddenly" this past weekend.

FIFA acknowledged the deaths on Tuesday and set up flower memorials, pictures of the three and condolence books inside the media center of Lusail Stadium during the Argentina-Croatia semifinal.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.

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