Will Iranian judoka Mollaei compete in Israel?

"I am a fighter. I want to compete wherever I can. I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it," Mollaei said in an IJF statement.

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September 3, 2019 21:56
1 minute read.
Will Iranian judoka Mollaei compete in Israel?

Judo - World Judo Championships - Men's Under 81 kg - Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan - August 28, 2019 - Iran's Saeid Mollaei and Russia's Khasan Khalmurzaev compete. . (photo credit: REUTERS)

Iranian judoka, Saeid Mollaei, was officially invited to the Tel Aviv Grand Prix 2019 - which will take place in January 2020, according to Israel Hayom.

Mollaei has not yet accepted the invitation, but International Judo Federation (IJF) President Marius Vizer wants him to compete, Israel Hayom reported.

Last week, during the Judo World Championships, Mollaei almost faced Sagi Muki, causing many to question whether or not the Iranian would compete with an Israeli. In the past, Iranian athletes have refused to compete against Israelis. Mollaei lost the round before he could have faced Muki.

The International Judo Federation said that Iranian authorities pressured Mollaei via phone to throw the semi-final round in order to avoid facing Muki in the finals.

"I am a fighter," Mollaei said in an IJF statement. "I want to compete wherever I can. I live in a country whose law does not permit me to. We have no choice, all athletes must comply with it. All I did today was for my life, for a new life."

Both Mollaei and Muki have made statements about the incident online. Mollaei posted online congratulating Muki, Israel Hayom reported.

Muki told the Jerusalem Post, "I want to shake [Mollaei's] hand, give him a hug. This way, we will not only show honor for each other, but together we can show that sport is above everything else.”

Following the competition, reports surfaced that Mollaei is seeking asylum in Germany, but Mollaei has denied these reports. However, Mollaei has said that he will not return to Iran and is turning to Vizer for a solution.

Vizer commented on Mollaei's situation during a Q&A session on Twitter:
As a further gesture of support, the IJF changed its Twitter name to #ISupportMollaei.

Alon Einhorn, Joshua Halickman, and Reuters contributed to this report.


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