Belounis writes to Zidane and Guardiola for help
As reported earlier in the week French footballer Zahir Belounis is currently stranded in Qatar with the Gulf country refusing to grant him an exit visa in a row over unpaid wages.
After an appeal to FIFA fell on deaf ears, Belounis has written to football icons Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola, both of whom worked as ambassadors for Qatar’s successful bid to stage the 2022 World Cup, asking they intervene on his behalf.
Mr Zidane and Mr Guardiola,
My name is Zahir Belounis and I am a French professional footballer.
After a legal dispute with my club, I am being prevented from returning home to France.
I haven’t seen my family in France since June 2012 because my employer refuses to give me the exit visa needed to leave the country. This is a special document that only exists in this country and Saudi Arabia.
I am not alone in this predicament. Many workers who are to build the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup risk finding themselves in the same situation as me.
When someone suggested that I write to you, I figured that you have been great footballers but also great men so I would appeal to you to use your renown to intervene, or try to intervene, to end the impasse.
I know that you have many demands for your time but I ask you to please help me. Please understand that I am a victim.
I know that you served as ambassadors for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup bid. You did this with good intentions but the reality is that if Qatar does not scrap its “exit visa” system, then there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of people trapped here.
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 …
I ask you to use your influence as football ambassadors to talk about what is happening to me and what is happening to many other young men here in Qatar. People are being kept far from their countries because of the exit visa system. This system should not exist and we need people like you, who love sport and its [good] image, to make our voices heard.
You know what it is like to have children. Imagine what I am going through every day in a house that is half-empty – because when they promised me that they would give me my exit visa, I sold my furniture – and when I see the look in my daughters’ eyes, I feel ashamed, I feel disgusted with myself for inflicting such conditions on them.
I speak to you as fathers and as former footballers and I ask you, please speak up and do what you can to help me get home.
The letter presents the pair with an interesting dilemma: they took the money, now they have a choice to make.