Sepp Blatter asked to intervene over player stranded in Qatar

As FIFA president Sepp Blatter completes his hand pressing jaunt to Qatar, he has been asked to intervene in the case of French footballer Zahir Belounis, who says he is being prevented from leaving Qatar in a contractual dispute with a local club.

The international players union FIFPro has been promoting Belounis’ cause and has written to Blatter saying that it remains “deeply concerned about his precarious situation”.

It said Belounis, 33, is stranded in Qatar, with his wife and two daughters, and being denied an exit visa until he agrees to drop a legal case against his former club, Al-Jaish, over his claim of almost two years unpaid wages.

Blatter, who promised to discuss the issue of workers rights on his trip to the 2022 World Cup hosts, has been uncharacteristically quiet over the case of Belounis.

In a personal letter to Blatter, FIFPro Secretary General, Theo van Seggelen, said: “FIFPro insists that Belounis be allowed to leave Qatar and receive his wages immediately.”

At the very least, Van Seggelen added, he should be freed, able to play for a new club and be guaranteed that he can claim his unpaid salary in a case before FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC).

According to FIFPro, the Belounis case is a violation of basic human rights.

It said Belounis joined Qatari side Al-Jaish in 2007. He later extended his contract until June 2015 but from November 2011 the club stopped paying his salary.

The club, it said, then put him under pressure to terminate his contract and sign a document confirming he was owed nothing by Al-Jaish.

Belounis refused, concerned his signature would invalidate any claim.

The kafala system mean that all expatriate workers in Qatar and some visitors require someone to sponsor their entry and exit from the country.

In some cases when a dispute arises between an worker and employer, the exit visa can be difficult to get hold of, or, in the case of Belounis, impossible.

There used to be a word for that kind of thing: slavery. But, no doubt in modern day Qatar, we will have to accept it as a cultural difference.