Grant Wahl was remembered Wednesday as a sportswriter, a man who sought social justice and a mentor who left lasting lessons with family and friends.

Wahl died at the age of 49, due to an aortic aneurysm, on December 10, while covering the match between Argentina and the Netherlands in the World Cup. A funeral held at the Times Center on Wednesday turned into a two-hour celebration where his life was remembered with hundreds of people in attendance, including colleagues and soccer officials.

“Grant and I were almost children when we met at Princeton,” his wife, Dr. Celine Gounder, said, her voice cracking. “I was 18 and he was 21. In many ways we ended up growing up together… He hadn’t traveled the world yet. In fact, he had only left the country a couple of times, both times to Argentina. But as much as I amused myself with the provincial character of him in those days, there was something revealing about him, this curiosity he had about the world.

Wahl grew up in Mission, a Kansas City suburb, graduated from Princeton in 1996 and became a fact-checker for Sports Illustrated magazine. He was promoted to reporter and covered basketball and soccer.

In the end, he opted for the latter sport.

“Grant actually wrote to Sports Illustrated when he was finishing elementary school to say, ‘My name is Grant Wahl, and I want to write for your magazine,’” his brother Eric recalled. “And he did get a response, which went something like: “Dear Grant. Thank you for your letter. That’s great. Keep writing.’ The fact that he got a response really stuck with him.”

Wahl remained with the magazine until 2021. He later created his own website and the Planet Fútbol podcast.

Defender of LGBTQ+ rights and critic of social injustice, Wahl had criticized the organizers of the World Cup in Qatar for the treatment of immigrant workers in the country.

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