ZURICH: Zahir Belounis and FIFA have finally got their act together over the tied-employment kafala system which has added to Qatar’s 2022 World Cup image problems writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The French-Algerian footballer, who was trapped in the Gulf state by a wages squabble with the Al Jaish club, explained his side of the story to FIFA president Sepp Blatter at the headquarters of the world federation.
FIFA attracted criticism after standing aside while Belounis struggled to make his case. In the end it was the international players’ union, FIFPro, human rights organisations and the International Trade Union Convention which forced a solution.
Belounis had technically eschewed the chance of appealing to FIFA by taking his case to the civil rather than the sporting courts.
The effect of the ‘chatter’ raised by Belounis, FIFPro, the ITUC, media and Co over labour issues in Qatar is such that FIFA, for the first time, has conceded its responsibility over human rights concerns in host nations (unlike the International Olympic Committee).
Hence a key role is being played in current talks by FIFA’s German executive committee member Theo Zwanziger. Significantly, Zwanziger was a vocal critic of the original award to Qatar.
Blatter opened the meeting by emphasising the importance of wide consultation as well as – according to a FIFA statement – “learning from the experiences of Zahir Belounis, to gain a further understanding of the issues, and to make progress on developing feasible solutions.”
Zwanziger said the outcomes of various meetings would be reported to the exco on March 20-21. The report would outline “possible initiatives that FIFA could take on these issues.”
He added: “As the organiser of the FIFA World Cup, FIFA acknowledges its responsibility to look into human rights issues in the host countries of its flagship event.
“We will continue to look into this matter and work with all stakeholders so that feasible and sustainable solutions are found. The next step, after important meetings such as this one today, will be submitting a report to the FIFA executive committee.”
FIFPro general secretary Theo van Seggelen said his organisation was intent on maintaining the dialogue with FIFA in the hope that it could contribute “to preventing similar situations from occurring in the future.”