The Qatar FA has disputed French-Algerian player Zahir Belounis’ claims that he has not been paid since May 2012 and is unable to leave the Gulf state due to issues with his former club.
Belounis, 33, had taken legal action against El-Jaish Sports Club, whom he claimed had failed to pay his salary, and said the club had refused to grant him an exit visa to leave Qatar until he dropped the case.
Migrant workers are not permitted to leave the Gulf state unless their employer grants permission under the kafala system, and the World Footballers’ Association (FIFpro) said Belounis had sold off most of his possessions as he was now unable to either earn an income or move elsewhere.
FIFpro had asked FIFA to intervene, without success, while Belounis wrote to former Qatar World Cup ambassadors Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola asking for help.
However, the Independent on Sunday reports that the case is more complicated than previously thought, and that the Qatar FA strongly rejects his version of events.
Belounis had left Qatar to return to Europe three years ago after having played second-tier football for the Military Sport Association club. When the side was promoted, the player agreed to return on a five-year deal, but the club was rebranded as Al-Jaish; Military Sport Association was no under the control of the Qatar FA and no longer took part in its league structure.
Belounis, whose contract was still technically with Military Sport Association, claimed he had not been paid a salary beyond his first year and so decided to sue Al-Jaish. He has said the club has asked him to sign a termination contract but is "frightened" of doing so because he "may end up with nothing after fighting for so long."
He added in an earlier Independent interview: "I want a guarantee that if I sign a termination contract, I can get out of the country. All I'm doing is asking for what I'm owed. I'm sleeping on a mattress, my home is empty, I've sold everything. It's impossible for me to stay now. The club have won and I'm a destroyed man. I don't have the strength to continue. I just want to see my family in Paris."
The Qatar FA, however, said he had never played for Al-Jaish and that he was still a paid employee of the Military Sport Association.
Saoud Al Mohannadi, the QFA’s general secretary, told the Independent on Sunday: "He is still being paid every month by the military, I'm 100 percent sure. He has a permanent job in the armed forces. They are his sponsor, not Al-Jaish.
"Usually if there is a dispute, the player concerned contacts us but we only heard of the case through the media. We would encourage him to sit down with the relevant parties, sign an agreement -- and that's it.
"Do you think someone would stay in a country for almost two years without any money? He has a villa provided by the military and a car. Unless he has done something wrong and has no liability towards anybody, he can get an exit permit."
The newspaper quotes a source close to the organising committee as saying: "When Al-Jaish was established, they didn't want the player and he was p---ed off about it."
The player's brother, Mahdi, has insisted the Qatar FA's claims are false on his Twitter account.
"He is still being paid every month by the military, I'm 100 per cent sure," More than happy to hear that : But Any proof, any payslip ???— Mahdi Belounis (@mahdibelounis) November 17, 2013
"He has a villa provided by the military and a car" Yes he has a house but they do ask for 4k per month for it !!! How can he pay that ???— Mahdi Belounis (@mahdibelounis) November 17, 2013
"A car" ?? : they get it back almost a year ago !! I white toyota Corolla to be accurate !!!— Mahdi Belounis (@mahdibelounis) November 17, 2013
and the very best : "In a statement, the Qatar FA claimed that Belounis had never signed a contract with Al-Jeish" They stole it to him— Mahdi Belounis (@mahdibelounis) November 17, 2013
But after request from the judge, he reapperared by magic !!! Isn't it WEIRD ??— Mahdi Belounis (@mahdibelounis) November 17, 2013
How did they steal the contract ?? you wouldn't believe !! "Zahir please come to the club, we will give you your exit visa and free you"— Mahdi Belounis (@mahdibelounis) November 17, 2013
he brought his contract, In their office they said they would get a copy of it, and never came back !! Is this thing possible ? YES— Mahdi Belounis (@mahdibelounis) November 17, 2013