With reporting from Riham Sheble
Despite a request from the world’s largest international football players union, FIFA cannot intervene in the case of French footballer Zahir Belounis, who has been trying to leave Qatar for months following a long contractual dispute with his club.
But under Qatar’s kafala system, the athlete is not allowed to exit the country without permission from his employer.
In a statement on Thursday, FIFA said, as reported by Reuters:
“FIFA is unable to intervene in this matter given that Mr. Belounis chose the option of contacting an ordinary court in Qatar instead of the second option available to refer to FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC).
Furthermore, we would like to point out that FIFA has to date received no contractual claim from Zahir Belounis against his Qatari club as well as any accompanying documentation to support his case.”
The remarks come after the International Federation of World Footballers (FIFPro) wrote to FIFA president Sepp Blatter this week, expressing concerns about the footballer’s “precarious” situation.
The 33-year-old expat of Algerian descent had high hopes that his paperwork would be sorted out a few weeks ago, and sold most of his furniture in anticipation of moving himself and his family back home.
But much to his despair, Belounis, who has sued his team Al Jaish for more than two years of unpaid wages, remains in Qatar.
He told media this week that this is because after signing a document giving up his claim to his unpaid wages, he was asked to sign another document that he believed could open him up to defamation charges, and thus, another travel ban.
Belounis’ phone was off today, but in an earlier message to Doha News this week, he said:
“I feel very bad today, I lost all my hope, I don’t know what I can tell you…I’m desperate.”
Meanwhile, Belounis has been appealing to media outlets and prominent athletes to help him get his exit permit. In an open letter sent to 2022 World Cup ambassadors Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola, which was published yesterday by the Guardian, he writes:
“Before these problems I was a happy man in Doha. My two daughters were born here and I know that many Qataris are working hard to make this an unforgettable World Cup and I am sure that it will be! The Middle East deserves to host this global event because it is a unique way to bring people together to enjoy a fraternal celebration between nations.
On the other hand, and in spite of all the good things that I could say about this country that has a sincere desire to do great things, I have been living a nightmare for several months because of the kafala system. This system is slowly killing me and many other people risk suffering in the same way. I am well placed to speak about it because I am completely bound up in it, so I take this opportunity to demand change for a better world.”
Both QFA and Al Jaish have not responded to requests for comment from Doha News on Belounis’ case.
But the Guardian reports that QFA previously denied Belounis’ claims, saying it had helped him recover unpaid wages for a former club he played for, but that he had never lodged a complaint about Al Jaish.