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FIFPro tells Qatar to abolish kafala system for players

2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar Supreme Committee Secretary-General Hassan Al-Thawadi speaks during the opening of the International Sport Securit
2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar Supreme Committee Secretary-General Hassan Al-Thawadi speaks during the opening of the International Sport Securit

(Reuters) - Qatar has been told by the world players' union FIFPro to abolish the kafala system for footballers and respect international standards for their contracts.

The 2022 World Cup host nation also heard that it was essential to allow the establishment of a local players' union.

"FIFPro has the attention of Qatar's leading football officials," said FIFPro delegate Mads Oland after meeting Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee, in Doha on Saturday.

"FIFPro, as the representative of all professional footballers worldwide, will be heard loud and clear."

The meeting came two days after French footballer Zahir Belounis arrived home, having allegedly been prevented from leaving the country after falling into a long-running dispute with a local club.

Belounis said he had been unable to obtain an exit visa which has to be applied for by his employers under the kafala, or sponsorship, system.

"We have a structure in place now that paves the way for FIFPro to launch several critical objectives in Qatar," said Oland in a statement issued by FIFPro.

"Qatar heard FIFPro's wish to abolish the kafala sponsorship system in its application to footballers. This goes to the heart of respecting their basic human rights."

"There is a clear understanding on all sides that the level must be raised for the best of the football industry in Qatar.

"The level must be in line with FIFA standards within the Qatari professional league, including the application of minimum contract requirements and dispute resolution."

"FIFPro made it very clear that the establishment of a free, independent FIFPro affiliate, a players' union that puts the welfare of footballers first, is essential."

"As of now, the players who FIFPro protect cannot be guaranteed that their rights will be respected. That has to change."

FIFPro also discussed conditions for the migrant workers employed in the country's construction industry following reports of ill-treatment and abuse.

"We raised the concerns about the conditions for workers building infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup and the core labor standards which Qatar needs to meet," said Oland.

(Reporting By Brian Homewood; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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