8th January 2018
A financial settlement has been agreed in the long-running dispute between Zahir Belounis and Qatar Stars League team El Jaish Sports Club.
Belounis was trapped in Qatar when, under the so-called kafala system, the club refused to grant him an exit visa to leave the country until he agreed to drop legal action over unpaid wages.
FIFPro intervened to help Belounis, his wife and two young children leave Qatar in late 2013 https://www.fifpro.org/news/fifpro-video-welcome-home-zahir-belounis/en/ and the world player union has been negotiating with authorities in the Gulf state to reach a financial settlement.
“I am very happy we have got to this point,” Belounis, a French-Algerian, said. “For a long time I thought there would be no justice." After other legal avenues were exhausted, FIFPro made a breakthrough after meeting with officials from the newly-formed Qatar Players’ Association (QPA).
“With the mediation of the QPA, we were able to negotiate a fair settlement,” FIFPro President Philippe Piat said. In November, the International Labour Organisation and the Qatari government announced a three-year cooperation agreement to implement extensive labour reforms, including the removal of the kafala system.
FIFPro is working with the QPA, the Qatar Football Association and Qatar Stars League to apply these changes to football. “We are pleased to see the end of the kafala system,” Piat said.
Additionally, FIFPro and the QPA are seeking to implement standard player contracts to guarantee minimum employment conditions, and set up a dispute-resolution tribunal for football that players can turn to.
“By elevating the rights of all players and putting a football tribunal in place, we can provide a promising new platform to build the game in Qatar,” Piat said.
Belounis, now living in Paris, welcomed the proposed improvements following his personal drama. “It will make me proud if I have helped change the system,” Belounis said.