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FIFPro, the World Footballers’ Union, has taken its recommendations on how to address the issue of labour rights abuses in Qatar directly to FIFA, in a meeting with President Sepp Blatter and Executive Committee member Theo Zwanziger.

Accompanied by Zahir Belounis, the French-Algerian footballer who was trapped in Qatar, FIFPro General Secretary Theo van Seggelen underlined the potential to collaborate with FIFA to help prevent similar issues from occurring in the future.

Van Seggelen said, “Our players have been mistreated in Qatar - Belounis being a prime example. We do not shy away from the moral responsibility football players have as a potential global force for good.”

“FIFPro is open to continuing the dialogue with FIFA. We think the players together with football authorities can play a crucial role and we are willing to work with FIFA to help protect our members in Qatar and elsewhere whose rights are being abused.”

Zahir Belounis was encouraged to have FIFA’s undivided attention when explaining his ordeal in Qatar. The issue of his claim over unpaid wages against the club which denied him an exit visa was also raised.

The meeting in Zurich was arranged by FIFA and follows a series of initiatives undertaken by FIFPro to illustrate the need for urgent change in Qatar and how football can play a greater role in promoting human rights. Last month, FIFPro told a European Parliament hearing that human rights standards must be admitted as a basic condition for any country wishing to stage the FIFA World Cup.

Regarding the matter of how to ensure that all professional footballers are protected in Qatar, FIFPro is currently in talks with local football authorities, including Hasan Al Thawadi of the 2022 World Cup Supreme Committee, to work on implementing several critical objectives: 

  • The abolishment of the kafala system 
  • The application of agreed minimum contract requirements and dispute resolution mechanisms 
  • The establishment of an independent football players’ union.

FIFPro awaits with interest the outcome of the next FIFA Executive Committee meeting on 20-21 March, where FIFPro’s views will be incorporated into a report which aims to provide greater clarity on the next steps to be taken to improve the conditions in Qatar.

“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,” said Dr Zwanziger. “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.”