Hibs: Zemmama deal is watertight

HIBS today insisted the signing of Moroccan star Merouane Zemmama was completely above board and had been approved by FIFA.

The Easter Road outfit snapped Zemmama up on a five-year deal after gaining a work permit for the midfield ace, but now his former club Raja Casablanca have claimed he was still under contract with them until 2009.

But today Hibs chairman Rod Petrie claimed the Moroccan club had failed to provide them with a copy of that contract, while 22-year-old Zemmama himself insisted it didn't exist.

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Expressing his disappointment that such a dispute appears to have arisen, Petrie was adamant that Hibs had acted correctly throughout, and pointed out that the Edinburgh club had received an "international transfer certificate" allowing Zemmama to play in Scotland.

Petrie said: "We approached the signing of Zemmama in the same way as we approach the signing of any player.

"Obviously the paperwork was more extensive because of the requirement for a work permit. We submitted the documentation to the SFA as it is up to them to obtain international clearance; that is a procedure between the national associations and is not something a club is involved in."

According to Petrie, the SFA submitted an application to their Moroccan counterparts on August 3 and the following day an international transfer certificate was received.

Petrie said: "We were told he was fully registered, he was our player. The international transfer certificate transfers the player's registration from the country he was last registered in to the SFA. It is part of the regulations that such a certificate is unconditional - you either get it or you do not."

As such, Zemmama made his debut against Inverness Caledonian Thistle with both the SFA and SPL confirming to Hibs he was eligible to play. Petrie added: "For whatever reason Raja have chosen not to send a copy of the contract they claims exists between themselves and the player to the SFA or ourselves."

Zemmama has also been closely questioned by Petrie, the Hibs chairman revealing: "The player himself denies the existence of any such contract. He is adamant he was freed. I think it has also been reported that Raja have sent a copy of the contract to us, that is a blatant untruth."

It is understood Hibs were told again last week that Zemmama's transfer was in order following a further review of his case following the claims emanating from Morocco.

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Petrie said: "Our only approach to life is to comply with the rules and have cordial relationships with everyone else in football.

"We are very tough and hard negotiators but at the end of the day we want to maintain the football friendly environment that exists.

"We are disappointed to be in dispute with another club but that seems to have arisen after we complied with all steps and after we were told by our national association that the player was ours and ours to play.

"If we had any doubt he would not have played against Inverness or Motherwell, it is as simple as that."

Meanwhile, Tony Mowbray revealed that midfield ace Guillaume Beuzelin will begin training with physio Colin McLelland today.

Two goals from Damon Gray gave Hibs' Under-19 side a 2-1 win over Motherwell.