Global news

Zahir Belounis free to leave Qatar

November 27, 2013
By ESPN staff

Zahir Belounis has been granted an exit visa to leave Qatar, it has been confirmed.

The French-Algerian, 33, had said he was stranded in the Gulf state after he took legal action against El-Jaish Sports Club, whom he claimed had failed to pay his salary.

Migrant workers are not permitted to leave Qatar unless their employer grants permission under the kafala system and, as the club had not done so, Belounis said he was forced to sell off his possessions as he could not earn a salary or move elsewhere.

FIFpro, the international players’ union, had asked FIFA to intervene but was unsuccessful, while Belounis wrote to former Qatar World Cup ambassadors Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola asking for help.

On Wednesday, the player’s brother, Mahdi, announced that a visa had now been secured and he was able to return to France.

FIFpro had recently announced it was sending a delegation to Qatar to seek “urgent talks with the country's football authorities and organisers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup” and on Wednesday released a statement on its official website to welcome the news.

It read: "FIFPro is delighted to hear Zahir Belounis’ ordeal will soon be over. Having finally received his exit visa, on Wednesday (Nov. 27), the French-Algerian footballer is now free to leave Qatar. Zahir Belounis is scheduled to leave Doha for Paris, on Thursday (Nov. 28).

"As the worldwide representative for professional footballers, FIFPro will be able to welcome back a long-lost family member. The World Footballers’ Association would also like to express its gratitude to all who joined together with FIFPro to ensure a successful outcome.

"FIFPro heads to Qatar on Thursday (Nov. 28) to start a four-day visit to engage local authorities in a bid to help prevent future misery for those who find themselves powerless under the working conditions of Qatar’s kafala sponsorship system."

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