'Stranded' footballer told he can leave Qatar
CNN has reported that after two years of legal wrangling, threats of a hunger strike and thoughts of suicide, Zahir Belounis has been told he will finally receive his Qatari exit visa on October 21.
The 33-year-old footballer had been unable to leave the Gulf state following a pay dispute against club side El Jaish.
Living with his wife and two young children, he was left without pay and struggling to provide for his family.
Now, following intervention from the French government and numerous meetings with the Qatari Football Association, he will be allowed to return home with his wife and two children.
The QFA has disputed Belounis' claims.
"I feel like a hostage," Belounis exclusively told CNN.
"Life has become a nightmare for me, my wife and my two small daughters.
"I try to be the best daddy I can but after I tuck them in at night, I go to bed and cry like a baby.
"They killed me inside. I hated myself. I had very dark thoughts."
Trapped in Qatar and with little or no support, Belounis had taken to speaking out to the western media in the hope that he would gain enough publicity to help acquire an exit visa.
Qatar has come under intense media scrutiny since winning the right to stage the 2022 World Cup, particularly over its employment laws -- notably the kafala system, which requires expatriate workers and some visitors to have a residence permit.