Iranian judoka Mollaei calls Sagi Muki 'my best friend'

"I am friends with Sagi Muki, as I am with all other athletes. He supports me and I thank him for this. It doesn’t matter who wins, what matters is friendship," Mollaei said in an interview to DW.

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki celebrates with his gold medal after winning the under-81kg event at the European Judo Championships in Tel Aviv (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Israeli judoka Sagi Muki celebrates with his gold medal after winning the under-81kg event at the European Judo Championships in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who was granted refugee status by Germany at the beginning of the month, made his first competitive debut under the International Judo Federation (IJF) Refugee Team at the Osaka Grand Slam, and was congratulated by Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki on his Instagram account.
"I would like to congratulate Saeid Mollaei who competed today as part of the Grand Slam Osaka Refugee Team," Muki wrote. "This is triumph of sports over politics. Thank you to the Israeli Judo, World and Olympics Association for their support."

Mollaei first responded to Muki on that same post, thanking him for the support and adding "good luck to you all the time, my best friend."
The correspondence did not end there. Mollaei decided a few hours later to screenshot Muki's post and upload a response on his own Instagram account, saying: "This is true friendship and a win for sports and judo over politics."
"I was so happy to compete again on the World Judo Tour #judoosaka2019. I didn’t get the result I wanted but I am back and I’ll get stronger. Receiving reigning world champion @sagi_muki's support means a lot to me and to all sports men and women in the world," Mollaei wrote.


"I am friends with Sagi Muki, as I am with all other athletes," Mollaei said in an interview with DW. "He supports me and I thank him for this. I hope that we can one day extend our friendship to the tatami mat.
"It doesn’t matter who wins, what matters is friendship," he said.
The Osaka Grand Slam is the first competition that Mollaei has competed in since the incident at the Judo World Championship in Tokyo, where he was forced by Iranian officials to lose his fights so as not to face Muki.
Mollaei was taken to Germany by IJF officials right after his last fight ended at the world championship, and has been waiting for refugee status to be able to compete once more. Now that his wish has been granted, he is eyeing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
"I certainly can’t go back to Iran after all the lies about me that were spread by the Iranian media and functionaries," Mollaei claimed. "This is why I came to Germany after the World Championships, to recover and to gain perspective on what has happened. All of the discussions I had afterwards made it clear to me that I had to start a new life."
Mollaei made it clear in that interview to DW that "Under this [political] system I will probably never return to Iran."