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SBD Global/November 15, 2013/International Football

FIFA Unable To Intervene In Case Of Footballer Stranded In Qatar

FIFA said that it "cannot intervene in the case of French footballer Zahir Belounis, who says he is trapped in Qatar because he cannot obtain an exit visa following a dispute with his club," according to Brian Homewood of REUTERS. FIFA said in a statement, "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)." FIFPro wrote to FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Wednesday saying it remains "deeply concerned about Belounis' precarious situation" and calling for urgent intervention. It said that Belounis "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." FIFPro said, "Without income for a prolonged period and forced to sell off most of personal possessions, Belounis and his family are said to be living in an apartment with no furniture which they must vacate in a matter of days" (REUTERS, 11/14).

'LIVING A NIGHTMARE': In London, Owen Gibson reported Belounis "has written an impassioned plea" to former 2022 World Cup ambassadors Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola asking them to "intervene on his behalf." Under the kafala system that ties employees to their "sponsors," migrant workers "cannot leave the Gulf state unless their employer agrees." In the letter to Zidane and Guardiola, who were both active ambassadors for the Qatar 2022 World Cup bid, Belounis said he has been "living a nightmare" in recent months due to a system that is "slowly killing me." The intervention of the French embassy "has not been enough to persuade the club to grant Belounis an exit visa." He believed that he would be allowed to return home last weekend after signing a document giving up his claim to the unpaid wages, but he was "then asked to sign another document, which he believed could lead to him being charged with defamation and the imposition of a travel ban." He "refused, believing that could leave him confined to Qatar for as long as the case took to be heard, which could be years" (GUARDIAN, 11/14). Read Belounis' letter in full.
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