(Reuters) – Soccer’s governing body FIFA has said that it cannot intervene in the case of French footballer Zahir Belounis, who says he is trapped in Qatar because he cannot obtain an exit visa following a dispute with his club.
“FIFA is unable to intervene in this matter given that Mr. Belounis chose the option of contacting an ordinary court in Qatar instead of the second option available to refer to FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC),” said FIFA in a statement.
“Furthermore, we would like to point out that FIFA has to date received no contractual claim from Zahir Belounis against his Qatari club as well as any accompanying documentation to support his case.”
The plight of the 33-year-old Frenchman is the latest controversy involving 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar following an outcry over the treatment of migrant workers in the country’s construction industry.
The international players union FIFPro wrote to FIFA president Sepp Blatter on Wednesday saying that it remains “deeply concerned about Belounis’ precarious situation” and calling for urgent intervention.
It said that Belounis is stranded in Qatar, with his wife and two daughters, and being denied an exit visa until he agrees to drop a legal case against his former club, Al-Jaish, over his claim of almost two years’ unpaid wages.
“Without income for a prolonged period and forced to sell off most of personal possessions, Belounis and his family are said to be living in an apartment with no furniture which they must vacate in a matter of days,” said FIFPro.
FIFPro said Belounis joined Qatari side Al-Jaish in 2007. He later extended his contract until June 2015 but from November 2011 the club stopped paying his salary.
The club, it said, then put him under pressure to terminate his contract and sign a document confirming he was owed nothing by Al-Jaish. Belounis refused, concerned his signature would invalidate any claim.
“FIFPro is aware that there are many more players (and coaches) who are experiencing similar conflicts with Qatari clubs,” added the Dutch-based union.
(Reporting by Brian Homewood- editing by Justin Palmer)