After fleeing Iran, could Iranian judoka come to Israel?

Iranian judoka who was ordered by Tehran not to compete against Israel's Sagi Muki invited to competition in Israel - as a refugee.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Saeid Mollaei
Saeid Mollaei

An Iranian judoka who was pressured by Iran to throw a fight in order to avoid facing Israel’s Sagi Muki last month has been invited to compete in Israel next year – as a refugee.

Saeid Mollaei, who was supposed to face Muki in the Judo World Championship in Tokyo last week, was pressured by Iran to throw his match against Belgian Judoka Matthias Casse so that he would not have to face Muki in the semi-finals.

Muki later went on to win the championships, becoming the first Israeli to take the gold medal.

Mollaei, who has since fled to Germany and reportedly applied for asylum, will compete next year on the international refugees’ team, the International Judo Federation reported Sunday.

According to a report by Israel Hayom Tuesday morning, Mollaei has been invited to Israel to take part in the January 2020 Judo Grand Prix in Tel Aviv.

“I couldn’t compete because of my country’s laws and because I was afraid of what would happen to my family,” Mollaei told German news outlets, noting that Iran had sent a message pressuring him to throw the match with Casse through his mother as a form of intimidation.

On Monday, Mollaei offered his congratulations to Muki for his gold medal win.

"Congratulations champion," Mollaei wrote in response to an Instagram message Muki posted after the winning the competition.

"Thank you, you are inspiring as a person and as an athlete," Muki responded.

Mollaei is not the first Iranian to avoid an Israeli in a sports competition.

In 2010, an Iranian contestant withdrew from a Taekwondo match against Israel’s Gili Haimovitz, who won a gold medal by default.

In 2012, Iranian athletes announced their intention to boycott competitions against Israelis at the London Olympics.

Two years ago, two Iranian players were criticized in their home country after they appeared for their Greek club Panionios in a Europa League qualifier against Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Iran forced Mollaei to throw a match despite the International Judo Federation and Iran having reached an agreement in May which stipulates that Iran will no longer boycott competitions against Israelis.