PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. — The remains of renown soccer journalism Grant Wahl are back in the United States on Monday.

Wahl, 48, died on Saturday while covering the World Cup Soccer event in Qatar. His body arrived in New York on Monday morning.

Wahl, who is most notable for having worked for Sports Illustrated for more than 20 years, was also a Johnson County, Kansas native, and a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School. 

Wahl’s friends in the Kansas City metro remember him as courageous and dedicate to more than just sports reporting.

Last Monday, Wahl tweeted that he’d developed an upper respiratory infection, but his COVID-19 test was negative. Witnessed said Wahl collapsed in the press box on Saturday while covering the match between the Netherlands and Argentina, and later died.

“I didn’t have to teach him much at all,” Bill Boley, retired Shawnee Mission East High English teacher, shrugged.

Boley, who taught classes at East for 33 years, said Monday that Wahl was one of his brightest students.

“It’s way too early for him to die at only 48. That part of this loss is especially moving in the wrong sense of the word,” Boley said.

Wahl had proven he wasn’t afraid to take a stand. In advance of the World Cup, he traveled to Qatar to report on mistreatment of Qatari migrant workers. Wahl was also detailed in the tournament’s opening days for wearing a rainbow t-shirt, protesting that nation’s discrimination against LGBT people.

“He went out into the world and did amazing things,” said Nate Bukaty, Sporting Kansas City play-by-play announcer.

Bukaty also hosts a popular soccer podcast. He’d had Wahl on the show as his guest in the week leading up to the World Cup. He never dreamed that would be the final time he’d hear from Wahl.

Bukaty said he also appreciated the positive image Wahl painted of American soccer, which is often looked down on by foreign audiences.

“He took American soccer seriously. He tried to promote and advance the sport here in the United States, but he also brought us stories of great soccer players and soccer stories from around the world,” Bukaty said.

During the weekend, Erik Wahl, Grant’s brother, tweeted that Grant wore the t-shirt in support of him as a gay man. He’s among those who believe Grant’s death wasn’t natural. Erik Wahl also tweeted that Grant’s remains are scheduled for an autopsy. 

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