Iranian judoka Mollaei hiding in Germany: I decided to live as a free man

Since the end of his competition in the Judo World Championship last month, Mollaei is still seeking asylum in Germany, hoping to compete in the Olympics as a refugee.

By ALON EINHORN
September 18, 2019 20:21
2 minute read.
Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei

Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

While the International Judo Federation (IJF) published its intention on Wednesday to suspend Iran from competing in any future judo competition, Iranian joduka Saeid Mollaei is still seeking asylum in Germany after revealing that "has been instructed by the Iranian authorities and the Iran Judo Federation to withdraw from competing to avoid a potential contest against an Israeli athlete...Sagi Muki," the IJF notice read.

Mollaei, who lost his Judo World Championship semi-final bout against Belgian judoka Matthias Casse, also lost his battle for the bronze medal against Georgian judoka Luka Maisuradze. The Iranian had only been instructed to lose a preliminary bout against Russian judoka Khasan Khalmurzaev to avoid the possibility of facing Muki.

In an interview to The Associated Press, Mollaei claimed that he did not heed the instructions to throw his preliminary fights, but received more intimidating calls from senior Iranian officials before his semi-final bout. “Almost all Iranian athletes have received such orders when it is linked to Israeli athletes,” he disclosed.

Mollaei indeed arrived to the semi-finals without being assisted by the Iranian national team's coach, and upon losing his bronze medal fight, he was taken by IJF officials to Germany, where he is currently in hiding since he left the Iranian judo team last month.

“For once, I decided to live as a free man for myself, and prove to the world that I am a brave man,” Mollaei said in a recent interview in Germany, where he’s living in an undisclosed location, Time magazine reported.

“I did this for my human soul. For myself. I wanted to practice and compete with freedom, with peace of mind,” said Mollaei. “I didn’t want to worry about whom to compete with and whom not to compete with. I’ll compete with anyone, to honor the Olympic charter.”

Mollaei's life in hiding in Germany has not been easy. “Even the clothes you can see on me (are gifts). I had nothing when I arrived in Germany. I just decided to come and I came,” he said. “I had a lot of gifts from friends and this is how I live now, with the help of a few friends and the IJF. I’m still waiting to see what will happen later, how I can compete, but obviously from the very beginning of my arrival here in Germany I started my training. Where and how I will compete later, I don’t know yet.”

“Even when I want to contact my family I do it through a friend in Tehran because my family is under surveillance and I can’t talk about many issues,” Mollaei said. “I don’t have much contact with any of my friends.”

Mollaei is currently training in hiding for the Olympic games in Tokyo next year, in hopes of competing under the International Olympic Committee’s team for refugees.

For Mollaei to be able to compete, the United Nations would have to grant him refugee status.


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