WASHINGTON/DOHA: US football journalist Grant Wahl, who died while covering a match at the World Cup in Qatar, may have been killed, his brother has claimed.
“I am the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the world cup. I do not believe my brother just died, I believe he was killed,” Eric, who is from the LGBTQ community, was quoted by Daily Mail in a news report.
Wahl said in late November he was briefly detained when he tried to enter a World Cup stadium in Qatar while wearing a rainbow shirt in support of the LGBTQ community in a country where same-sex relations are illegal.
He said World Cup security denied him entry to the United States’ opener against Wales at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan and asked him to take his shirt off.
“Free to read: What happened when Qatar World Cup security detained me for 25 minutes for wearing a t-shirt supporting LGBTQ rights, forcibly took my phone and angrily demanded that I remove my t-shirt to enter the stadium. (I refused.),” Wahl posted on his Twitter account.
“One of the security guards told me they were just trying to protect me from fans inside who could harm me for wearing the shirt … And then a security commander approached me. He said they were letting me through and apologized. We shook hands. But the entire episode left me wondering: What’s it like for ordinary Qataris who might wear a rainbow shirt when the world isn’t watching here? What’s that like?,” he also wrote in his Substack platform.
A FIFA representative also later apologized to the journalist.
Qatar’s World Cup organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy (SC), paid tribute to Wahl’s “enormous love of football” and offered condolences to his family, friends and media colleagues.
Wahl, a former Sports Illustrated sportswriter who moved to the Substack online publishing platform, had been tweeting about the Netherlands-Argentina match earlier on Friday.
His agent, Tim Scanlan, said that Wahl had “appeared to suffer some kind of acute distress in the start of extra time” at the quarter-final match.
Scanlan said attempts were made to revive Wahl in the press box before he was taken to a local hospital, where he was confirmed dead.
“He received immediate emergency medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital,” the World Cup organizing committee said in a statement, which did not list a cause of death.
“We are in touch with the US Embassy and relevant local authorities to ensure the process of repatriating the body is in accordance with the family’s wishes.”
FIFA, football’s world governing body, and Qatar’s international media office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“Everyone’s emotional and it’s really traumatic,” Scanlan said. “He was a true advocate for both the men’s and women’s games and really just cared deeply about the sport. He was empathetic and just truly a brilliant writer.”
Wahl was covering his eighth World Cup. He wrote Monday on his website that he had visited a medical clinic while in Qatar.
“My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you,” Wahl 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.”
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.
Wahl tweeted on Wednesday that he had celebrated his birthday that day.