His courage and determination to denounce the political pressures of the Iranian regime forced him into exile in Germany. Since the beginning of September, Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei has been intimidated by the authorities of his country, who have asked him to let his Belgian opponent win in the semifinals of the Tokyo World Cup on August 28, to prevent him from facing in the final, his Israeli rival Sagi Muki. As Iran does not recognize the existence of Israel, its citizens are forbidden to confront Israelis in a sports competition.
The 2018 world champion under 81 kg was executed, especially because of threats to his family in Iran. Death in the soul, he simulated a head injury in his semifinal, which he lost against the Belgian Matthias Casse, and the Israeli Sagi Muki was crowned world champion. But can a competitor bear being prevented from giving the best of himself?
"I deliberately lost"
A few days after this defeat, Saeid Mollaei decided to denounce the pressures suffered, explaining that he let his luck slip on Tehran's orders. "I deliberately lost 100%." Mr. Salehi Amiri (President of the Iranian Olympic Committee) and then Mr. Davarzani (Iran's Deputy Minister of Sports) called me, saying, "Ne do not fight it, make sure that the International Federation (judo) does not realize it and there will be no problem, "he revealed on September 3, on Iran International, a chain of opposition based in London.
Shortly after these statements, fearing for his safety, the athlete refused to return to his country and fled to Germany where he has been training ever since. "I made this choice, I can not see my family or talk to them anymore, I have to go through a friend to get some news," he told France Info.
The International Judo Federation has confirmed the statements of Saeid Mollaei and said that sanctions procedures of the Iranian judo federation were under way, without specifying what they would consist of.
The body had recently worked to stop pressure from Iran and the Gulf countries on their athletes: in November 2018, it had thus facilitated the reception of competitors from Israel during the tournament in Abu Dhabi. These had been able to compete under the Israeli flag. For the first time, an Israeli sports minister was invited and the hymn of the Jewish state even sounded in the capital of the United Arab Emirates during the presentation of the gold medal of a tournament to Israeli judokas Sagi Muki and Peter Palchik.
"You are an inspiration"
Despite his trouble with his country, Saeid Mollaei is expected to compete in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020: he announced to Reuters on Thursday 12 September that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Judo Federation (IJF) assured him that there would be his place.
"The IFJ and the IOC have told me that they will guarantee me access to the Olympics next year," said the champion, from a secret location in Germany. If Iran refused to include him in his delegation, Saeid Mollaei could compete as an independent athlete, under the Olympic banner, after approval by the IOC.
"This is my main goal and I will do everything I can to reach it, I have already started training, I want to go there and win the only medal I miss, Olympic gold. . "
"I will probably not be able to return to my country, but I hope that winning an Olympic medal next year will alleviate the suffering and hardships of my family and friends," said the 27-year-old Reuters.
Judo fans will likely face Iranian Saeid Mollaei and Israeli Sagi Muki at this competition. While waiting for the hypothetical fight, the two athletes delivered a beautiful lesson of fair play and sportiness on Instagram.
"Bravo, champion," wrote Saeid Mollaei after Sagi Muki's victory in the Tokyo World Cup final. "Thank you, you are an inspiration as a human being and as an athlete", replied his rival.
With Reuters and AFP