Belounis asks for Zidane, Guardiola help
Zahir Belounis has written to former Qatar World Cup ambassadors Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola asking for help.
The 33-year-old French professional footballer has not been allowed to leave Qatar since June 2012 due to a legal dispute with his former club al-Jaish over unpaid wages.
Migrant workers are not permitted to leave the Gulf state unless their employer agrees under the kafala system, leaving Belounis, along with his wife and two daughters, in limbo.
In his letter, Belounis, who claims he is owed over two years’ wages from the Qatar Stars League side, says that he has been "living a nightmare" and that his plight is "slowly killing" him.
Belounis also says that "hundreds if not thousands" of others are in the same predicament and has appealed to Zidane and Guardiola as “fathers and former footballers” to help him.
"I know that you served as ambassadors for Qatar's 2022 World Cup bid," Belounis wrote in his open letter. "You did this with good intentions but the reality is that if Qatar does not scrap its 'exit visa' system, then there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of people trapped here."
He continues: "I ask you to use your influence as football ambassadors to talk about what is happening to me and what is happening to many other young men here in Qatar.
"People are being kept far from their countries because of the exit visa system. This system should not exist and we need people like you, who love sport and its [good] image, to make our voices heard."
According to global players’ union Fifpro, Belounis has had to sell most of his possessions. He believed he would be in a position to return to France last weekend after signing a document forgoing his claim to the unpaid wages but declined to sign a second paper due to fears he could defamation charges and a travel ban.
The French embassy’s intervention has not helped matters and nor has a Fifpro letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.
However, FIFA claimed that they are “unable to intervene” because Belounis lodged a legal claim in the Qatar courts rather than with their resolution chamber.
Former world footballer of the year Zidane is believed to have received almost two million pounds in remuneration for his role as an ambassador for the Qatar World Cup bid.
While Bayern Munich coach Guardiola, who spent two years in Qatar towards the end of his playing career, is thought to have helped establish ties between the country’s investment arm and his former club Barcelona.
Belounis’ claims have been denied by the Qatar Football Association who say that he was helped to recover wages from another club in the country but that he has not lodged a complaint against al-Jaish.