- Alex Dos Santos won a case against Indonesian side Persikabo over unpaid wages in 2020
- The Brazilian was later sued for defamation, had his passport confiscated
- Only last month did Dos Santos receive his outstanding wages
At the end of last year, Brazilian footballer Alex Dos Santos felt trapped in his apartment in Indonesia. A dispute over unpaid wages with his former club escalated to the extent that he was scared of going outside. He dyed his bleached-blonde hair back to brown because, when he did go out, he was worried about being recognised.
The conflict arose after Dos Santos took the club, Persikabo, to a FIFA employment tribunal for claiming 75 percent of his wages which the club withheld – without any individual or collective negotiation with players – during the first year of the pandemic in 2020.
He won the case but, when he returned to Indonesia from Malaysia to join another club in Indonesia, he needed Persikabo’s approval to extend his visa. Angry at losing the case at FIFA, his former club pushed back. They refused to facilitate his visa extension unless he drop the case.
When Dos Santos gave details about his situation on Instagram, the Persikabo president sued him for defamation, his passport was confiscated and pending the defamation case he was not allowed to leave Indonesia. That his wife and nine-year-old were 12,000 miles away in Brazil made him feel even more alone.
“I was worried something would happen to me,” Dos Santos, 32, said.
After several weeks of uncertainty, during which he was confined to his apartment and lost several kilos because of stress, the Indonesian federation arranged a meeting between the club and the Brazilian embassy in Jakarta.
Dos Santos agreed to renounce the money he was owed – around $60,000 – in order for the president to drop his case so that he could return to Brazil.
When he was safely back in Brazil, FIFPRO and the player’s lawyer argued that he signed the agreement under duress and when he returned to Brazil, he filed another claim. Again, he won his case.
Persikabo received a transfer ban. The president continued to stall on paying, seeking to pay in instalments, before finally wiring him what he was due last month.
“I was very happy with the support I received from FIFPRO,” Dos Santos said. “My message for other players who experience something like this is ‘fight for what you deserve’.”
The number of claims at FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber – which resolves disputes involving players like Dos Santos who played outside their home country – has been rising steadily since 2016, according to FIFA. In the 2020/21 season, there were 1,187 claims – 25 percent more than in the previous season.
Dos Santos has also played for clubs in Serbia, Romania, Portugal and Turkey. Now he is training with a semi-professional team near his family in Porto Alegre, Brazil and hoping to relaunch his career over what he called an unnecessary “fiasco” over his wages.
“I was four years in Indonesia and I was happy there – I will keep a place in my heart for Indonesia and the people there but I don’t think I would return," he said.
“I received two offers to play for clubs in Indonesia but me and my family are scared of going back.”
FIFPRO is advocating for a change of FIFA’s disciplinary code which would see clubs and officials sanctioned for the confiscation of travel documents and other unjustified and abusive measures adopted with the intention to extort players.