Former Qatar football player: ‘They killed my dream’

French footballer Zahir Belounis not allowed to leave oil-rich state after seeking legal action against club

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Zahir Belounis, a former French footballer who was trapped in Qatar for nearly two years has expressed dismay at his treatment in the Gulf state.

“I believed I was set up for a comfortable lifetime. Now I have nothing. Whatever happens, I am starting from zero,” Belounis told the UK-based newspaper the Guardian in an interview published on Wednesday.

Belounis was not allowed to leave Qatar for two years after his football club el-Jaish did not grant him an exit permit following the player's legal action against the club for unpaid wages.

“I did nothing wrong. But…they killed my dream. It has destroyed me. The club destroyed me,” said the player.

As the 33-year-old footballer could not leave the country, he remained in Qatar for two years until being allowed return home to France after appeals from several newspapers.

Belounis bears no grudges towards his former Qatari hosts, but has called for its labor sponsorship system, known as “kafala,” to be revamped.

“Kafala” gives employers control over movements of foreign workers in Qatar.

His plight was another controversy surrounding Qatar's hosting of the World Cup which also included a media storm over the country's treatment of migrant workers in the construction industry.

While upset as his uncertain future “starting from zero’, and in financially strained circumstances with a young family to support, Belounis says that he wants to get back to playing football – and is in “talks” with UK clubs.

“If I could just play again, even just for one minute, I wouldn't fear anything; I could even walk on to the pitch at Old Trafford and not be afraid,” the player told the newspaper.

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