Trapped in Qatar Footballers Describe Nightmarish Treatment
Part 2: 'A Barbaric Country'
On June 27, 2010, his patience had run out. He withdrew from his contract, invoking Article 51 of the Qatari labor law, and demanded that the general secretary of the Olympic Committee issue him an exit permit so that he could leave within the next 14 days. But no permit was issued.
Morello now teaches French and mathematics at an elementary school for 25 hours a week, "more or less legally," as he says. "I don't know why Qatar is doing this to me," he says. "All I know is that I want to go home."
He has appealed for help from a Moroccan who was in a similar situation but managed to get out of Qatar.
Abdeslam Ouaddou is walking across Place Stanislas in the northeastern French city of Nancy. He returned from Qatar on Nov. 21, 2012. "It's a barbaric country. I will never set foot in that place again," he says. "If Qatar is allowed to host the World Cup, it will be a World Cup of slave traders, a World Cup of shame."
His case is before the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), under reference number 12-02884/mis.
Ouaddou has a shaved head, is rail thin and dressed completely in black. He played 68 games for the Moroccan national team as a defender. He also played for FC Fulham in England and Olympiacos Piraeus in the Champions League.
In July 2010, Ouaddou joined Lekhwiya SC in Qatar. The club won the championship in the first season, and the trophy was presented to Ouaddou. Nevertheless, he was forced to switch to Qatar SC, without a transfer fee or a lending fee -- and without having a say in the matter. Ouaddou didn't want to go, but the manager told him that it was the prince's express wish, and that the prince's wishes were non-negotiable.
There were still two years left on his contract, but he was eliminated from SC Qatar after the first season. Ouaddou refused to sign a termination contract, because he was in good shape and wanted to play. As a first step, the club's management suspended him from the team's training sessions.
Then it removed Ouaddou from the team and refused to issue him a jersey. When the remaining players and club management gathered for a team photo, he demonstratively joined the group, wearing a T-shirt, standing with his legs apart and with his hands on his hips -- as a sign that he wasn't about to give in. The officials wore white robes and laughed.
Threatening Phone Calls
Ouaddou wanted to leave Qatar but was refused an exit visa. He appealed to FIFA on Sept. 27. The club relented, but only after he had announced his intention to go public with his story. "The club's general manager said something to me that I will never forget: Ouaddou, you'll get your visa, but I promise you that it will take five or six years before FIFA issues a ruling in this matter. We have a lot of influence at FIFA."
Ouaddou shrugs his shoulders as he walks through Nancy. He is still waiting for FIFA's decision. The Qataris owe him a year's salary. In a fax he received recently, FIFA wrote that it had completed its investigation. At least he has a glimmer of hope, he says.
He advised Belounis to get FIFA involved, but isn't sure that it will do him any good. "My name saved me. I was able to leave because I'm a well-known player. Zahir isn't," he says.
Ouaddou hasn't found a new club yet. He's now working with the International Trade Union Confederation. This week, he is scheduled to speak at a world conference on human working conditions in Vienna, where he will talk about "modern slavery in Qatar." He also supports the "Re-run the Vote" campaign, which wants FIFA to award the 2022 World Cup to a different host.
His BlackBerry rings, but Ouaddou doesn't answer the call. He says that he receives threatening phone calls from unlisted numbers, and that someone has warned him against the dire consequences of criticizing Qatar. He telephones with Belounis two or three times a week. "He's depressed. I try to convince him not to do anything stupid," he says. He also speaks with Morello on a regular basis.
Morello is supposed to appear on the Doha Corniche for a photo on a Friday evening, shortly before sunset, but he doesn't show up. He sends a text message instead, writing that he doesn't want to be photographed, because he doesn't want anyone to know what he looks like. He is afraid of the consequences.
Belounis arrives on time. He sits down on a wall, against a backdrop of dhows bobbing up and down in the water and the shimmering city skyline. A demolition hammer rattles in the background.
"Qatar has earned the World Cup -- write that," says Belounis. "Please write that. I don't know how much longer I'll have to live in this country. Perhaps I'll never get out of here. I'm afraid that the sheikh will apply pressure on the judge. And then what will happen to me? And to my family? So, please, write that."
The Qatari Football Association, the clubs and the National Olympic Committee have declined to comment on the cases. The Football Association noted, however, that it has "the greatest respect for each individual."
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
- Part 1: Footballers Describe Nightmarish Treatment
- Part 2: 'A Barbaric Country'