Football News caught up with the brother of Zahir Belounis, the Franco-Algerian footballer who had been trapped in Qatar for over two years because of his inability to obtain an exit visa, about the latest developments: notably the news that Zahir has finally been given the freedom to return to France on Friday 29th November to Paris.
Good evening Mr Belounis and first of all a huge congratulations. What a moment for you and your family. Tell me, how would you best sum up your present emotions?
Thank you for your interest and your kind words. We are extremely happy, no words can describe it. We will be that bit happier when he finally reaches French soil (scheduled for this Friday) but the joy is there for sure.
Is there any chance of this still going wrong for you brother?
No it is 100% sure that he will be returning. He has the exit visa in his hands.
Did Zahir ever talk to you about death?
Yes, he talked to me about killing himself. We were all shocked, especially our mother…it was difficult but we found the right words to comfort him to stop him making a terrible mistake.
Who would you like to thank the most for working to help free your brother and his wife and two children?
Abdesslam Ouaddou who was in the same situation and several journalists, notably some French, English and Spanish ones. Also Twitter and Facebook really did make a difference. Then, the French ambassador too who worked very hard on this.
What will be your first words to your brother when you see him on Friday?
I love you, welcome home…not many words will be needed I don’t think.
How will you celebrate his return?
In general, our family is quite reserved. I think we will have a few quiet but lovely meals together and that in itself will be moving.
What is next for Zahir? Will he continue to seek compensation from Al Jaish?
I do not know…he has his own personal strategy…I really haven’t got a clue.
Do you think that Zahir will play professional football again?
Yes and I will do my utmost to make it happen. It will be more of a symbol to say to the world: Qatar, you have not been able to kill off everything!
Coming soon: an in-depth interview with Abdesslam Ouaddou including his take on the Zahir Belounis saga.
[PHOTO: Image of Zahir Belounis | Image Courtesy of ‘Human Rights Watch’]