On Friday, longtime American soccer journalist Grant Wahl collapsed and died during the final minutes of the Netherlands–Argentina World Cup quarterfinal match in Qatar.
The news shocked many soccer fans, as well as his fellow media members. While those in the United States dealt with this news Friday night, many based in Qatar woke up to the terrible news Saturday morning.
Fox opened their daily World Cup coverage with host Rob Stone reporting Wahl’s death. Stone struggled a bit and choked up toward the end, but he pulled through in talking about someone who meant so much to increase the popularity of soccer/football in the United States.
Grant Wahl was a dedicated colleague and friend to so many at FOX Sports.
We remain shocked and saddened by his passing, and extend our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to his wife, family, friends and colleagues. pic.twitter.com/PmWVdftKZl
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 10, 2022
“Today, we are going to try to celebrate the beautiful game with heavy, heavy hearts. Yesterday, the American soccer community suffered an unspeakable loss. Renowned, massively influential journalist Grant Wahl passed away here in Qatar while covering this tournament.
“Grant’s career included more than two decades at Sports Illustrated and seven years as a colleague here at Fox Sports, during which he helped raise the popularity of soccer in the United States to new heights.
“U.S. Soccer, releasing a statement which read in part, ‘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.’
“FIFA President Gianni Infantino said of Grant, ‘His love for football was immense and his reporting will be missed by all who follow the global game.’
“He is survived by his wife Celine. Grant was 48 years old.”
Many, including myself, have been critical of Fox’s World Cup coverage and their “stick to sports” approach, ignoring stories involving political, human rights, and/or social acts while having Qatar Airways (owned by the Qatari government) as a major sponsor. Wahl was doing the total opposite in Qatar, writing about migrant and worker deaths and the callous remarks given by Qatar’s Supreme Committee CEO Nasser Al-Khater about a worker’s death being “a natural part of life,” as well as being briefly detained by security for wearing a rainbow shirt in addition to covering the matches every day.
That said, even though Fox took the opposite coverage approach as Grant did, they deserved a chance to remember and mourn a peer, a work colleague, and a friend.