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.

Belounis wrote:

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.

 Kind regards,

 Zahir Belounis.

The letter presents the pair with an interesting dilemma: they took the money, now they have a choice to make.

Samuel Eto’o accuses teammates of not passing to him

Samuel Eto’o has accused some of his Cameroon teammates of refusing to pass to him during their World Cup playoff against Tunisia.

Ahead of the second leg of the tie on Sunday, the 32-year-old claims that he had known in advance of the attempt to undermine him and had to do more work himself to drop deep and get the ball.

“It’s true and regrettable,” Eto’o told the press, “and when you watched me retreating to the midfield to chase the ball, it’s because I heard of the plot. Football is a collective sport. You are obliged to pass the ball even to your worst enemy, especially when he is in a good position to receive it.

“It is time to put all these issues behind us and concentrate on Sunday’s match. We need to unite, chat during the game and do our best to obtain the result that the entire nation is expecting from us and, since our coach is right here, I want him to help stop the act of not passing the ball to a player on the field.”

If they didn’t pass to Eto’o during the last match, it’s hard to believe they will be laying them on a plate this time round.

However, boss Volker Finke argued immediately against Eto’o's claims, insisting that he never noticed such a situation during the 0-0 draw.

“I didn’t see anything of such a nature during that match,” the German declared. “Each of you can go and watch the video once more. I have watched it over again for about six to seven times. I never noticed any time when a player refused to pass the ball to Eto’o or any other player.

“There could be some issues between the players but nobody refused to kick the ball to Eto’o during that encounter. To me it sounds much like a kindergarten talk.”

Indeed it does. Although given the number of times Eto’o has retired from the national team, one could understand why some of his teammates might wish to teach him a lesson.

Paolo Di Canio hits back in O’Neill row

Former Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio has hit back at Martin O’Neill’s criticism of his time at the Premier League club.

O’Neill, who was sacked by Sunderland in March and replaced by Di Canio, called the Italian a ‘managerial charlatan’ last week.

“I don’t know if he knows the meaning of this word charlatan,” Di Canio said in an interview with Sky Sports News. “Probably I can teach him, even if I am not English.

“I respect the opinion of manager Martin O’Neill but the fact that he spoke after six months, not straight away, that proves what kind of level he is. He is not very big.”

So, not too much respect at al then.

“A charlatan is a manager who spends £40 million to be a top 10 club and then sees the club sink into the relegation zone,” the 45-year-old added.

You have to say, he has a point.

Di Canio, who had previously coached third division Swindon Town, questioned the fitness of the Sunderland players when he took over from O’Neill and he remains convinced that the players were unfit.

“The fitness level wasn’t bad, it was pathetic,” the former striker said.

“I had players who told me they had cramps from driving the car,” he said. “I had three players with injuries in the calf after 20 minutes of a game. Six different players with problems means they were not fit.”

Di Canio helped keep Sunderland in the Premier League last season but was sacked five games into the current campaign following a 3-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion which left the club bottom of the table on one point.

According to reports there had been a huge training ground bust-up the day after the defeat, but the Italian denied this had happened.

“It never happened. There was a typical meeting that I used to have the day after every game to see the clips, to analyze the game. Maybe there was opinion but this happens in every good family,” he said.

Despite his first managerial post at a Premier League club ending in disastrously, Do Canio was confident of working in England again.

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I can’t wait to have another chance with the right people that let me work in my way,” he said. “Now I feel a better manager than before, much better.

“Even if I have requests from around Europe I don’t go. I understand that in England there is not anymore space for me so I’ll wait.

“It would be stupid for some chairman if they don’t call me. Even if it’s at a Championship club with a project.”

Goal of the Day

In what was billed as a contest between two of the dark horses to win next year’s World Cup, Colombia overcame Belgium 2-0 in Brussels. The opening goal came when Radamel Falcao timed his run perfectly to collect a well-placed through pass before skipping past Simone Mignolet and finishing into an empty net.

Nicklas Bendtner wants to leave Arsenal

Nicklas Bendtner has admitted that he wants to leave Arsenal and is more motivated by the thought of playing than by how much money he earns.

The Denmark international has returned to Arsenal this season after two years out on loan at Sunderland and Juventus. His impact since returning has been minimal and it would be hard to believe that his desire to leave is greater than Arsenal’s desire to see the back of him. .

Bendtner was close to leaving Arsenal on a number of occasions during the summer but saw moves to the likes of Malaga and Frankfurt fall through due to his wage demands.

Those demands no longer appear to be a problem. That’s if we’re to believe Bendtner.

“I want to leave Arsenal. If its in the winter we’ll have to wait and see. First priority is a new challenge – Money is second.”

“I’ve been playing football since I was four years and back then it was for the love of the sport.”

Remember those words when the move for a fresh challenge collapses in January.

Quote of the Day

“I can’t top what you did. Your achievements will be sacred in the history of football. Jupp is a legend in Germany and every child in Spain knows who he is too. You have given me a perfect team. For me personally, you are a real role model.”

Pep Guardiola pays respect to his Bayern Munich predecessor Jupp Heynckes

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