Players union in talks with Qatar over Belounis

A delegation from FIFPro, the world footballers’ union, is on its way to Qatar urgent talks with the country’s football authorities and 2022 World Cup organisers about the plight of Zahir Belounis, the French-Algerian stranded in Qatar over a contractual dispute.

Over the four-day visit FIFPro hopes to secure the release of Belounis who is being prevented from leaving the Gulf nation under the kafala work visa system and warns other players about the perils of the system.

“FIFPro assumes under the present arrangement that foreign players in Qatar can never feel certain their basic rights will be upheld and respected if a dispute, contractual or otherwise, arises with a club,” the union said in a statement.

A delegation led by FIFPro board member Mads Øland, together with representatives of the International Trade Union Confederation, will also look at the situation regarding migrant workers,

“We will not overlook the tragedy which is currently unfolding in Qatar,” the statement continued.

“FIFPro is seriously concerned by allegations of human rights violations in the construction of World Cup stadia and related infrastructure.”

FIFPro said the visit was designed to lay the foundation on the following proposals:

• Respect for the human rights of footballers including the abolition of the kafala sponsorship system in its application to players;
• The establishment of FIFA standards within the Qatari professional league including minimum contract requirements, dispute resolution (clearly without limiting the application of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber);
• In time, the establishment of an independent players’ association in Qatar.

FIFPro restated its commitment “to resolve the deplorable situation” facing Belounis who has been unable to leave the country for two years. The kafala system requires a player employed by a club to obtain an exit permit from his employer in order to be able to leave Qatar, even after the employment relationship has ended.

“His is a story we unfortunately know only too well. To prevent future misery for professional footballers, FIFPro will target the application of the kafala sytem with Qatari authorities and football’s world governing body FIFA,” the union said.

FIFPro officials plan to meet with Belounis and will call for football authorities “to hear his cry for help”.

Brendan Schwab, FIFPro Asia chairman said: “FIFPro recognises what all parties are doing to try and help Zahir Belounis. Some are visible, others continue to work behind the scenes, but FIFPro appreciates all efforts in this difficult yet important matter.”

It’s good to see a sense of urgency over the Belounis sitiuation. It’s just a shame that it has taken the relevant bodies two years to take his predicament seriously.

Blatter condemns Betis fans over racism

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has hit out at Real Betis supporters after a minority of the club’s fans were spotted racially abusing one of their own players.

Brazilian defender Paulao was sent off in Sunday’s 4-0 defeat to Sevilla and television footage showed supporters making monkey chants at the player.

“Sickened to learn of ‘fans’ racially abusing a Real Betis player,” the 77-year-old wrote on Twitter.

“I condemn their actions, which were seen on TV/online by millions,” the Swiss added. “FIFA’s members approved a resolution at congress in May to tackle discrimination. It’s time for tougher sanctions.”

Blatter also posted a link to comments he made on combating racism when attending the English Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations last month.

“FIFA has to show zero tolerance to any form of discrimination,” he said at the time. If we do not apply this approach, then we have failed.

“We cannot be the police all around the world. But FIFA will intervene in our competitions. Football has a pyramid structure. We have Confederations and member associations. This has to also be tackled by organisers of other competitions.”

Over to you Spain.

Unfortunately, before Spain can deal with the problem, it has to acknowledge that is has is a problem. And this is something it has shown precious little sign of doing.

Asked last year how racism in Spanish football compared to the game in England, Spanish football federation chief Angel Villa Llona said: “There is no racism in Spanish football.”

Meanwhile, Paulao, 31, revealed his dismay at the episode after the game and called for the authorities to take a firm stance against the offenders.

“My family, in Brazil as well as here in Spain, are sad and worried,” he told reporters.

“When I left the pitch I was only upset about the sending off and I did not notice, although my friends told me about it later.

“It’s good that this gets a lot of publicity so that action can be taken. We are all the same. Skin colour changes nothing.”

Goal of the Day

Demonstrating a first touch that evoked memories of Dennis Bergkamp’s wonder goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup, Shane Long is a worthy recipient of our Goal of the Day.

Nicklas Bendtner explains his brush with the law

Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage at his apartment block.

The 25-year-old Arsenal striker was held by police in Hertfordshire on Monday in connection with damage to the building where he lives in the Bushey area.

In a statement, Hertfordshire police said: “A 25-year-old man from Bushey has been cautioned for criminal damage and is no longer in custody. He was arrested in connection with an incident which occurred at an address in The Avenue, Bushey, in the early hours of 24 November.”

The not-so-great Dane later issued an apology via his Instagram account.

Quote of the Day

“Let’s stop always talking about this Balotelli In his life all he has done is sit on the bench at other clubs. He will always be smaller than Milan and Milan will always be bigger than him. In my Milan side he would have carried bags for players such as Marco Van Basten, George Weah and Andriy Shevchenko.”

Former Milan midfielder Zvonimir Boban is not a fan of Mario Balotelli.

Burkino Faso lose World Cup appeal

FIFA has dismissed Burkina Faso’s appeal against their elimination from World Cup qualifying by Algeria.

Algeria advanced on away goals after the teams finished 3-3 on aggregate. Algeria captain Madjid Bougherra scored in a 1-0 second-leg victory in Blida, Algeria, last week.

The Burkina Faso football federation (FBF) had claimed Algeria defender Madjid Bougherra was ineligible for the teams’ play-off match in Algiers last week.

According to FBF president Sita Sangare, Bougherra picked up a yellow card during the group stage of qualifying against Mali and also went into the book during Burkina Faso’s 3-2 win in the first leg of their play-off, which should have ruled him out of the second leg.

Football’s governing body says ”no breach of the FIFA regulations has been committed” by Algerian officials. FIFA also says the ”formal conditions to lodge a protest were not met.”

World Cup regulations require eligibility protests during qualifying to be filed within one hour after matches.