BRUSSELS: FIFPro heads to Qatar on a four-day visit from November 28 to December 1 to seek urgent talks with the country’s football authorities and organisers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup over the Zahir Belounis issue.

The world players’ union has said it “will not sit idly by as the rights of the players are being abused.”

A  statement continued: “A delegation led by FIFPro board member Mads Øland, together with representatives of the International Trade Union Confederation, will carry the message that, while FIFPro’s primary concern must be the players, we will not overlook the tragedy which is currently unfolding in Qatar. FIFPro is seriously concerned by allegations of human rights violations in the construction of World Cup stadia and related infrastructure. FIFPro’s visit is designed to lay the foundation on the following initiatives:

  • Respect for the human rights of footballers including the abolition of the kafala sponsorship system in its application to players;
  • The establishment of FIFA standards within the Qatari professional league including minimum contract requirements, dispute resolution (clearly without limiting the application of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber);
  • In time, the establishment of an independent players’ association in Qatar.

 FIFPro is working to resolve the deplorable situation which sees French-Algerian footballer Zahir Belounis unable to leave Qatar.

Belounis, his wife and two daughters have been stranded in Qatar due to the country’s kafala visa sponsorship system. His is a story we unfortunately know only too well. To prevent future misery for professional footballers, FIFPro will target the application of the kafala sytem with Qatari authorities and football’s world governing body FIFA. 

FIFPro will meet with Zahir Belounis and implore local authorities to hear his cry for help. The World Footballers’ Association would like to praise his courage and determination during this extremely difficult period. FIFPro hopes Belounis and his family will be able to enjoy a normal life as soon as possible.

The kafala sponsorship system requires a player who is employed by a club to obtain an exit permit from his employer in order to be able to leave Qatar, even after the employment relationship has ended.

The system is causing great injustice where a player wishes to leave Qatar and he is in dispute with his club. In these circumstances, the club can, as a condition of granting the exit visa, demand that the player waives any claims against the club even where the club has unilaterally terminated its playing contract with the player in breach of FIFA regulations.

FIFA has clear standards on these matters. A player is well within his rights to refer any employment related dispute to the local courts or, if it has an international dimension, to the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC).

That dispute should not be allowed to interfere with a player’s ability to continue to carry on his profession as a footballer. Commonly, FIFA takes provisional measures to allow players to continue to play with another club even where a contractual dispute exists.

As such, FIFPro believes these are issues that football must resolve, together with Qatari authorities and FIFA, as custodians of the game.