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Qatar accused of abusing footballer's rights

Union says French player has been stranded for two years after Al-Jaish club refused him an exit visa in pay dispute.

Last updated: 13 Nov 2013 17:23
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Zahir Belounis says he is stranded in Qatar with his wife and two daughters [Facebook]

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has been asked to intervene in the case of French footballer Zahir Belounis, who says he has been stranded in Qatar for two years in a contractual dispute with a local club.

The international players union FIFPro has written to Blatter saying that it remains "deeply concerned about Belounis' precarious situation".

It said Belounis, 33, 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 says secretary-general Theo van Seggelen wrote to Blatter asking for his "urgent intervention" with Qatari officials on behalf of Belounis.

The case could embarass Qatar, which has been accused of violating the rights of thousands of expatriate workers who are building the infrastructure for the 2022 football World Cup.

Belounis' case has also highlighted the "kafala" employment system in Qatar, which stops workers from leaving without written permission from employers.

The union says Al-Jaish stopped paying Belounis after it exceeded its quota of foreign players.

It said Belounis joined the club in 2007. He later extended his contract until June 2015 but from November 2011 the club stopped paying his salary.

The club, it said, then put him under pressure to terminate his contract and sign a document confirming he was owed nothing by Al-Jaish.

Belounis refused, concerned his signature would invalidate any claim.

At the very least, Van Seggelen added, he should be freed, able to play for a new club and be guaranteed that he can claim his unpaid salary in a case before FIFA's dispute resolution system.

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