Sports world remembers Grant Wahl, a champion of women’s soccer

Flowers are placed in the Al Bayt Stadium press area in memory of soccer journalist Grant Wahl. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

After Grant Wahl died Saturday while covering the men’s World Cup in Qatar, U.S. women’s national team captain Becky Sauerbrunn joined the chorus celebrating the life of the prominent U.S. soccer journalist.

As the news of Wahl’s death spread, reactions from around the sports world began to pour in, including from the women’s soccer community. Wahl, 48, was a vocal proponent for the women’s game throughout his career, and Sauerbrunn called him “one of the originals who helped drive our game forward.”

“The soccer community lost a real one today,” she wrote. “Grant Wahl never shied away from asking the tough questions, the right questions, the ones that got to the heart of the matter. He will be greatly missed.”

USWNT great Abby Wambach called Wahl’s death “heartbreaking for me for so many reasons.”

Ahead of the 2015 World Cup, which was Wambach’s fourth and last with the USWNT, Wahl profiled the star for Sports Illustrated.

“Grant Wahl and soccer are inextricably linked,” Wambach wrote. “I have looked to Grant and his work for decades. The soccer story here in the US has Grant’s name all over it. We will miss you Grant and we can’t stop thinking about your family.”

Looking at the women’s game, Wahl covered just about every single one of the United States’ best.

In 2010, he wrote a story chronicling Mia Hamm’s activities in retirement. In a social media post mourning Wahl, Hamm called him “one of the best.”

He also wrote about the incredible backstory behind Carli Lloyd’s hat trick for the USWNT at the 2015 World Cup final — and the shot that completed it.

Lloyd, who spent time in Qatar in the last several weeks covering the World Cup with Fox Sports, was “completely shocked” when she heard of his passing, she wrote.

“My heart goes out to his wife, family, friends and the soccer community. Truly heartbreaking,” she added.

Julie Foudy, who like Lloyd played for the USWNT and then joined the media ranks, said she was “still trying to process this.”

“Grant Wahl not only elevated the game here in the US [thanks] to his coverage, he loved the game and knew its power was transformational,” Foudy wrote.

USWNT forward Megan Rapinoe, who Wahl once called a “reporter’s dream,” wrote that his death is “devastating.”

“All love to his family and loved ones,” she wrote.

Ali Krieger, another star player for the U.S., called him an “inspiration” to the soccer community and “anyone who was lucky enough to meet him.”

The NWSL offered its “most sincere condolences” to Wahl’s family and friends.

“We are heartbroken by the news of Grant Wahl’s death,” the NWSL said in a statement. “His commitment to sharing the stories of our beautiful game was unmatched, but more importantly, his integrity, thoughtfulness and kindness were central to the way he lived.”

Adding to the statement, commissioner Jessica Berman recalled Wahl taking the time to make sure she felt welcome to women’s soccer.

“He was a special person,” she wrote.

Kansas City Current owner Chris Long said he and wife Angie “are devastated.” The two had known Grant for more than 30 years, he wrote, and the Current “wouldn’t exist” without his insight.

“He was our first call. He is a legend,” Long wrote. “His words were always insightful, honest, powerful but his actions made all of our lives better.”

Other NWSL clubs also issued statements.

“Grant brought the best of what soccer can be to the public,” the North Carolina Courage said in a statement. “His high-level journalism and passion were instrumental in the growth of our sport in this country. Our thoughts are with his family, loved ones and friends as the entire soccer community mourns this heartbreaking loss.”

Courage head coach Sean Nahas “always heard great things” about Wahl, he wrote.

“He was one who showed a passion for the sport and the people in it in his writing and a true fan of the game,” he added.

Angel City FC was “devastated” by the news, the club said in its statement.

“Grant Wahl’s contribution to the soccer community, especially women’s soccer, cannot be measured,” the club said. “The beautiful game is better because of him. Grant will be incredibly missed.”

Sydney Leroux also expressed appreciation for Wahl, who “cared so deeply about women’s soccer and our soccer community.”

Racing Lousiville forward Jessica McDonald called Wahl’s death “such sad news.”

“He had such a huge impact on the women’s game,” she wrote. “He is very much so appreciated for that and advocating for what he believed in. May he rest in peace. Praying for his family.”

Portland Thorns and Canadian national team forward Janine Beckie called the news “horrific and heartbreaking.”

“A lot of speculation about the reason, I pray this comes to light,” she wrote. “I am at a loss for words, thinking of his family, friends & community in the media. Genuinely heartbroken.”

In addition to advocating for the women’s game, Wahl was outspoken about human rights issues. He made headlines earlier in the 2022 World Cup for wearing a pride t-shirt to the United States’ opener. He was detained by Qatari officials and later released.

Tennis star Billie Jean King applauded Wahl’s work in advocating for the LGBTQ community and women’s soccer.

“Heartbreaking to hear of the death of Grant Wahl,” she wrote. “A talented journalist, Grant was an advocate for the LGBTQ community & a prominent voice for women’s soccer.

“He used his platform to elevate those whose stories needed telling.”