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FIFPro welcomes the fact that Zahir Belounis has received his Qatari exit visa. The French/Algerian professional footballer was stranded in Qatar due to the country’s kafala sponsorship system. To prevent future misery for professional footballers, FIFPro wants to discuss the application of the kafala system with Qatari authorities and FIFA.

FIFPro wants to congratulate Belounis on his release. The world footballers' association praises his courage and his determination during this extremely difficult period. FIFPro hopes Belounis and his family will be able to enjoy a normal life as soon as possible.

Brendan Schwab, FIFPro Asia Chairman: ‘FIFPro also congratulates all other parties who have made their contribution to the release of Zahir Belounis. Some were visible, others worked behind the scenes, but FIFPro appreciates all efforts in this difficult yet very important matter.’

Zahir Belounis is a 33-year old professional footballer. In 2007 he joined Qatari side Al-Jaish. In 2010 he extended his contract until June 15th 2015. He was made a Qatari national to enable him to appear in the national team that participated in the Military World Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2011.

On his return from Brazil, Belounis was sent on loan to another club, as the club had engaged more overseas players than allowed. The following season Al-Jaish did not even send him on loan, and f From November 2011 the club stopped paying his salary.

In October 2012 Belounis engaged legal help to pursue fulfilment of his contract. The club then put Belounis under great pressure to terminate his contract and sign a document confirming he was owed nothing by Al-Jaish. The club told him he could not leave Qatar unless he signed. Belounis refused, concerned that his signature would invalidate any claim.

As a consequence Belounis, his wife and two daughters had to live in Qatar without any income. This caused great stress. A desperate Belounis mentioned he was feeling depressed, was contemplating a hunger strike and was having ‘black ideas’…

FIFPro is aware that there are many more players (and coaches) who are experiencing similar conflicts with Qatari clubs. Therefore FIFPro wants to have discussions with the Qatari authorities and FIFA regarding the application of the kafala sponsorship system to footballers.

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 permit, 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. 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.

FIFPro wants to make sure that these principles are upheld and respected.