French-Algerian striker Zahir Belounis, 33, had unwittingly been trapped by the Kafala system; a Qatari law that leaves foreign workers bound to their employer, to the country Qatar and prevents them from a: resigning or b: returning to their home country unless they have permission from the employer.
In Belounis' case, it was Qatar Stars League football club El Jaish, based in Doha.
His struggles have been documented by the BBC and he is open about how it led to dark and suicidal thoughts and that it drove him to alcohol abuse, until he got the news he had been hoping for since little after joining El Jaish in 2007 - he was free, as Tweeted by his brother last week.
#zahir has his exit visa. He should be in Paris Friday morning at CDG airport.— Mahdi Belounis (@mahdibelounis) November 27, 2013
Wenger, just last month, said: 'I have been contacted by somebody from [Belounis'] family who asked for help. But what I’ve heard in France is that the French government is involved and they are in a much stronger position than anybody else to help out. I am just surprised he cannot get out of the country and I don’t know why really.'
Speaking this week, Zahir Belounis was grateful for the public support of such a prominent member of the football community: 'Big thanks to Arsene Wenger, I did not expect that from him you know, he don't know me [sic] but he do it, he spoke about me and I hope one day I can thank him.'
Qatar are the official hosts of the 2022 World Cup, Belounis wrote an open letter to official 2022 ambassadors such as Pep Guardiola yet it was Wenger who deserves credit for helping bring the player's situation to the media spotlight. It also brings up questions as to whether Qatar are deserving hosts of the World Cup…