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Body of soccer journalist Grant Wahl returned to U.S. after death in Qatar

Wahl, 49, was covering the Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinal match Friday when he “fell ill” and was taken to a hospital after having been seen by on-site paramedics.

The body of U.S. soccer journalist Grant Wahl was returned to the U.S. on Monday morning after his death in Qatar, where he was reporting on the 2022 World Cup.

The State Department confirmed that Wahl's remains arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City at 8:30 a.m. accompanied by an official from the U.S. Embassy in Doha. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted condolences to Wahl's family Monday morning.

"I so appreciated Grant Wahl, whose writing captured not only the essence of the beautiful game but also the world around it," Blinken wrote. "I send my deepest condolences to his family, and thank our Embassy team and Qatari partners who worked together so effectively to fulfill their wishes."

Wahl, 49, was covering the Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinal match Friday when he “fell ill” and was tended to on-site by paramedics and taken to a hospital, a spokesperson for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said.

A cause of death was not immediately available.

AGrant Wahl
Grant Wahl with a World Cup replica trophy in recognition of his achievement of covering eight or more World Cups at an AIPS/FIFA Journalist on the Podium ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on Nov. 29.Brendan Moran / FIFA via Getty Images

Wahl posted on his personal website last week that he had been given antibiotics after he was evaluated by on-site medical personnel at the World Cup. He said he had been feeling sick and was told he most likely had bronchitis.

“My body finally broke down on me,” he 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.”

His wife, Dr. Céline Gounder, tweeted late Friday that the news came as a “complete shock.”

Image: Flowers are placed in memory of Grant Wahl prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter final match between England and France at Al Bayt Stadium on Dec. 10, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar.
Flowers are placed in memory of Grant Wahl before the England-France quarterfinal match at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, on Saturday.Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Wahl's older brother, Eric, told The Kansas City Star that he has faith that Wahl will have a full autopsy after he cast doubt that his brother's death was related to bronchitis. He said his brother told him he had received death threats after he refused to remove a T-shirt with a rainbow logo that signified solidarity with LGBTQ rights. 

Same-sex relations are illegal in Qatar.

“There’s enough that I know in my conversations with Grant to make me legitimately suspicious, if nothing else,” Eric said. “That’s why we want transparency.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wahl was in the possession of the New York City medical examiner's office and will have a full autopsy now that his remains have been repatriated.

"What I can also say is that we have seen no indication of foul play or anything nefarious it at this point," Price said. "We did receive excellent cooperation from our Qatari partners."