Zahir Belounis, the French-Algerian footballer whose tortuous saga of being “trapped” in Qatar against his will made him an international cause celebre, has finally reached a financial settlement in his long-running dispute with Qatar Stars League team El Jaish Sports Club.
Belounis, whose story made international sports headlines, was caught up in the kafala employment system that ties foreign workers to sponsoring employers and was refused an exit visa until he dropped legal action over 18 months of alleged unpaid wages.
At one point Belounis was reported to have had to sell all his possessions and was on medication for depression.
FIFPro, the international players’ union, intervened to support Belounis, campaigning hard for him and his young family, and he finally managed to leave Qatar for Paris in late 2013.
Now, according to a statement from FIFpro, a financial deal has been worked out four years later following talks with the newly-formed Qatar Players’ Association (QPA).
“I am very happy we have got to this point,” Belounis was quoted as saying. “For a long time I thought there would be no justice.’’
In November, the International Labour Organisation and the Qatari government announced a three-year cooperation agreement to improve working conditions including scrapping the antiquated kafala system.
“With the mediation of the QPA, we were able to negotiate a fair settlement,” FIFPro President Philippe Piat said. “We are pleased to see the end of the kafala system.”