Zahir Belounis

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Zahir Belounis
Personal information
Full name Zahir Belounis
Date of birth (1980-02-15) February 15, 1980 (age 38)
Place of birth Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, France
Height 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Playing position Striker
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
–2001 Olympique Noisy-le-Sec
2001–2003 FAIRM Île-Rousse Monticello
2003–2004 Saint-Lô Manche
2005 Melaka TMFC
2005–2007 La Tour/Le Pâquier
2007–2013 El Jaish
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Zahir Belounis (born 15 February 1980) is a French-Algerian Football player who plays as a striker. The refusal of authorities in Qatar, where he was playing football, to grant him an exit visa after a pay dispute, brought him to wider attention.[1]


Belounis played as a striker for lower league French and Swiss clubs before moving to Qatar in 2007. He played for the El Jaish SC.[2]

He was in a dispute over unpaid wages from 2010 but because in Qatar, the employer has control over exit visas under the Kafala system, he was unable to leave the country.[3] Belounis threatened to go on hunger strike to draw attention to his cause[4] and in 2013, he wrote an open letter to 2022 World Cup ambassadors Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola to garner support.[5][6] FIFA declined to take up his case as Belounis had appealed via the Qatari authorities and not through FIFA.[7]

After 19 months he was granted an exit visa and left Qatar to return to France.[8][9] Belounis admitted that during his time awaiting an exit visa he had planned to leave Qatar illegally, considered suicide and had turned to alcohol to help him cope with his situation.[8]

The case drew attention to Qatari employment laws and their interaction with their hosting of the 2022 World Cup.[10][11][12]


  1. ^ "Zahir Belounis: another embarrassment for Qatar". World Soccer. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Zahir Belounis: A Virtual Captive in Qatar". Soccer Politics / The Politics of Football. 2013-10-07. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  3. ^ "'I feel like a hostage': Professional footballer held in Qatar for two years over a pay dispute finally granted exit visa". Mail Online. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  4. ^ CNN, By James Masters and John Sinnott,. "'Stranded ' footballer Zahir Belounis told he can leave Qatar - CNN". CNN. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  5. ^ Gibson, Owen (2013-11-14). "French footballer trapped in Qatar asks Guardiola and Zidane for help". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  6. ^ que-ouvriers-exploites-la-strategie-marketing-du-qatar-fragilisee.html Zahir Belounis bloqué, ouvriers exploités : la stratégie marketing du Qatar fragilisée - le Plus
  7. ^ "Exclusive: Is Zahir Belounis a Qatari wage slave or not? Local FA". The Independent. 2013-11-17. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  8. ^ a b "Trapped Zahir Belounis planned to escape from Qatar before release". BBC news. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
  9. ^ "Belounis freed to leave Qatar". ESPN. Retrieved 27 November 2013.
  10. ^ Andrew Warshaw: Qatar's Belounis case is raising questions and damaging reputation - Inside World Football
  11. ^ Zahir Belounis: another embarrassment for Qatar – World Soccer Daily (01/10/2013) « World Soccer World Soccer
  12. ^ "Soccer Is Just Another Word For Slavery in Qatar". 2013-11-15. Retrieved 2018-02-05.

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