Soccer journalist Grant Wahl’s sudden death in Qatar this past Friday sent shockwaves across the U.S. sports and media landscape.
His wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, a CBS News medical contributor, made her first public appearance since Wahl’s passing on the Wednesday edition of CBS Mornings, where she revealed the cause of his death.
“He had an autopsy done here in New York by the New York City medical examiner’s office, and it showed that he had an aortic aneurysm that ruptured,” said Gounder.
Gounder, speaking to Gayle King, also recounted the moments leading up to the horrible news saying she was wrapping up work calls on Friday when she saw messages coming via Twitter, text, and email and realized “clearly something wrong.”
She was told her husband had collapsed and was taken to the hospital after about 20 minutes of CPR. She tried to track down someone at the hospital to tell her what had happened.
“I kept on asking: did he have a pulse?” she said. “If he had a pulse when he left the stadium, that would have been a good sign, but no one would answer the question. And so to me- I was scared.”
Later in the day, she tweeted that she was in complete shock” over her husband’s death and thanked Wahl’s “soccer family” and their friends for their support.
I am so thankful for the support of my husband @GrantWahl‘s soccer family & of so many friends who’ve reached out tonight.
I’m in complete shock. https://t.co/OB3IzOxGlE
— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA 🇺🇦 (@celinegounder) December 10, 2022
“To know that he was loved by so many people makes me feel a little less alone,” Gounder said. “It’s like a warm hug when you really need it.”
Wahl, who turned 48 just days earlier, was covering his eighth World Cup when he passed away.
According to his agent, Wahl “appeared to have suffered some sort of acute distress in the press room” of the stadium during the Argentina-Netherlands World Cup quarterfinal match. Paramedics tried to revive him and took him to a nearby hospital, where he died.
Qatari officials said in a statement that Wahl “received immediate medical treatment on site, which continued as he was transferred by ambulance to Hamad General Hospital.” The exact cause of death is not yet known.
Wahl developed a reputation as America’s most renowned soccer journalist over a lengthy career at Sports Illustrated. He left SI in 2021 after 24 years at the outlet and was most recently operating his own Substack and a Spotify podcast, Futbol with Grant Wahl.
He also did on-air work for Fox Sports (2012-2019) and, more recently, CBS Sports. He was an analyst and editorial consultant on the CBS Sports HQ streaming service throughout this year’s World Cup and wrote U.S. men’s national team-focused columns for CBS Sports. He was also a consultant for soccer documentaries on Paramount+.
He spoke about his overall health on his podcast; in an episode posted shortly before his death on Dec. 6, Wahl remarked that he had been feeling sick.
“It had gotten pretty bad in terms of, like, the tightness in my chest, tightness, pressure. Feeling pretty hairy, bad,” he told co-host Chris Wittyngham in the episode. He added that he sought help at the medical clinic at the World Cup media center, thinking perhaps he had bronchitis.
He said he was given cough syrup and Ibuprofen and felt better shortly afterward.
The timing of his death initially raised eyebrows, especially after he made headlines at the start of the World Cup by reporting that he was detained and temporarily refused entry to the Nov. 21 U.S.-Wales match because he was wearing a rainbow t-shirt in support of LGBTQ rights.
He had also written about the conditions of migrant workers building soccer stadiums in Qatar.
“I want people to remember him as this kind, generous person who was really dedicated to social justice,” Gounder said.