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Volume 6 No. 216

People and Pop Culture

French footballer ZAHIR BELOUNIS, trapped in Qatar without pay due to the country's sponsorship system for migrant workers, "has been granted an exit visa after a two-year struggle," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. In a message tweeted by his brother, MAHDI, Belounis said, "I thank people for everything. If I am out, it is because of your fantastic commitment and support for human rights." Mahdi "confirmed that an exit visa has been granted and that he expects him to arrive at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris with his wife and two young children on Friday" (GUARDIAN, 11/27). In London, Oliver Kay reported the 33-year-old said in September that he had "repeatedly been denied an exit visa from Qatar due to a dispute with his club, Al-Jaish, relating to almost two years of unpaid wages." He was "required to sell his possessions to support his family" and he spoke of “black ideas,” saying, “Do they want me to kill myself? Sometimes I think that is the only way to finish this.” Hopes "were raised and then dashed several times, but finally an agreement has been reached" between Belounis, Al-Jaish and the French Embassy in Qatar. Under the kafala system, workers "cannot leave Qatar without an exit visa that can only be granted with the permission of their sponsor." Belounis’s sponsor, El Jaish, "refused to grant that permission while he remained in dispute with them." It is "not yet known whether he was required to make any financial or legal concessions before being granted his visa" (LONDON TIMES, 11/27).

FIFA exec committee member MOYA DODD has replaced new IOC President THOMAS BACH on the Court of Arbitration for Sport's oversight panel. The court says Dodd, a former Australian national team player, is the fifth woman on the 20-member Int'l Council of Arbitration for Sport. Dodd "was appointed in May to serve a one-year term on the FIFA ruling board" (AP, 11/26). ... Spanish football coach ÁNGEL PÉREZ GARCÍA has been hired as coach of Maldive Islands club New Radiant for the '14 season. García, a former Real Madrid player, had his "last coaching experience leading Egyptian side El-Shorta" (AS, 11/27). ... Former Chinese national team member GAO SHENG "has been named as the new coach" of Super League football club Liaoning Hongyun. Gao started his career in Liaoning and moved to a Japanese club in the '90s. In '12, he was an assistant coach of Hangzhou Greentown FC (XINHUA, 11/27).

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FA of Malaysia began negotiations with former Nigeria, South Africa and Japan national team coach PHILIPPE TROUSSIER. Troussier, who has just completed his contract with China’s Shenzhen Ruby, "is reportedly the leading candidate" to replace DATUK K. RAJAGOPAL, whose deal ends next month (THE STAR, 11/27). ... The French government has conferred AirAsia CEO and co-Chair TONY FERNANDES of the Caterham Group Legion d'Honneur award. French President FRANCOIS HOLLANDE conferred the award to Fernandes in a ceremony Tuesday in France (Caterham F1). ... Australian businessman CLIVE PALMER is "throwing in the towel and abandoning his costly Supreme Court bid to sue an independent Football Federation Australia arbitrator" for A$10M ($9M) over a judgment that highlighted "dishonourable" conduct by the resources tycoon and federal MP. The Australian "has seen legal documents" showing the leader of the Palmer United Party wants to walk away from the defamation action, which "could have led to the testing of evidence about a mysterious reputed break-in at the offices of his company Mineralogy" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 11/28). ... Former La Liga Athletic Bilbao President JESÚS MARÍA DUÑABEITIA died on Wednesday. Duñabeitia served as president of the club from '77-82 (MARCA, 11/27).

Eurosport's LIAM HAPPE: "Real fans at Bernabeu tonight to all wear Ronaldo masks, fulfilling clause in CR7's contract that he be focal point even when he cannot play"

London Daily Mail's IAN LADYMAN: "Well Im wearing running tights under my jeans, a really bad hat (£8 from Asda) and trying to type in gloves. It must be Champions Lge in Nov"

Financial Times' ROGER BLITZ: ''Collapse and fatalities at Sao Paulo world cup stadium come in the week prior to tournament draw"

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