Journalist Grant Wahl Said He 'Had a Case of Bronchitis' Before His Death: 'Pressure and Discomfort'

Wahl collapsed during a match in Qatar on Friday and died at age 48, after "three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work"

grant wahl death
Photo: grant wahl/instagram

Grant Wahl discussed coming down with bronchitis before his death in Qatar on Friday.

The famed sports journalist was covering the FIFA World Cup in Doha, specifically, a match between Argentina and Netherlands, when he collapsed Friday. His cause of death remains unknown, although his brother Eric Wahl has said he suspects it was the result of foul play.

Just a day before, on his Thursday episode of his Fútbol with Grant Wahl podcast, as ESPN points out, the host explained that he hadn't been feeling his best covering recent matches.

"My body told me, even after the U.S. went out, 'Dude, you are not sleeping enough,' and it rebelled on me. So I've had a case of bronchitis this week," he said. "I've been to the medical clinic at the media center twice now, including today. I'm feeling better today, I basically canceled everything on this Thursday, that I had, and napped."

While Wahl said at the time he was doing "slightly better," he added that his voice hinted at him not being at "100 percent" as he prepared to attend the Friday match.

"Hopefully I will not cough during this podcast," Wahl said. "I'm coughing a lot. Everyone's coughing here. This is by no means limited to me. So many journalists have got a crazy cough that sounds like a death rattle sometimes. The only thing that's surprising to me is, there isn't that much COVID here. I thought there'd be a real issue with that. We're not really seeing COVID cases, we're just seeing a lot of general sickness — coughing, colds. And I can't wait to be on the other side of what I have, but I'm going to be ready to go."

During the episode, Wahl explained that he'd be attending the Argentina and Netherlands quarter-final, which he was "very excited for." Before he died, he also had plans to see France and England face off on Saturday.

Similarly, on his Substack, Wahl explained that his body "finally broke down on me," and again detailed the sickness.

"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."

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl speaks on a panel discussion at the 2014 Kicking + Screening Soccer Film Festival New York, presented by Budweiser, on April 8, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Budweiser)
Michael Loccisano/Getty

As ESPN reported, those nearby say Wahl fell back in his seat in the press box at Lusail Iconic Stadium during the match, with emergency service workers quickly responding. "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 shared in a statement, per ESPN. "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."

Wahl's brother Eric previously wrote on Instagram Friday that he suspected foul play after Grant had been detained while wearing a rainbow shirt in Qatar in November.

"My name is Eric Wahl. I live in Seattle, Washington, I am Grant Wahl's brother," he said, announcing his brother's death on Instagram Friday. "I am gay, I am the reason he wore the rainbow shirt to the World Cup. My brother was healthy, he told me he received death threats. I do not believe my brother just died. I believe he was killed, and I just beg for any help."

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Dr. Céline Gounder, Wahl's wife since 2001, opened up on Twitter Friday about the "complete shock" she felt hearing the news of his death. "I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl's soccer family & of so many friends who've reached out tonight," Gounder wrote on Twitter. "I'm in complete shock."

Gounder, an infectious disease expert, physician, and medical journalist — who was previously named one of PEOPLE's 25 Women Changing the World in 2017 — married Wahl back in 2001 after meeting him when they both studied at Princeton in the mid-'90s. Together they share two dogs — Coco and Zizou.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino released a statement Saturday morning detailing his "disbelief and immense sadness" finding out Wahl had died.

"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," Infantino wrote. "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 Céline, his family, and his friends at this most difficult time."

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