Historic showdown between Israeli player and Iranian dissident

Israeli Sagi Muki lost to former Iranian champion Said Malai in his first ever match today, Saturday, in the Hungarian capital Budapest at the Judo Grand Prix Championships.

Said Mollai, the 2018 world champion, fled Iran for Europe in 2019 after being forced to lose in the semi-finals of the 81kg World Judo Championships to Belgian Matthias Kass to avoid a confrontation in the final with Israel’s Sagi. Muki, awarded with a gold medal.

Malay revealed that he was ordered by Iran’s coaches to lose in the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup in Tokyo to avoid facing Sagi Muki in the final, and then fled to Germany and then received Mongolian citizenship.

Saturday’s showdown marked the first time that Malay and Muki officially competed against each other at the 2022 Grand Slam Judo Championships in Budapest, where Moulay represented Azerbaijan.

Malay defeated Muki in the play-off round after they drew in regulation time and the two players hugged after Malay won.

After the match, the official account of the International Judo Federation tweeted a “Tweet” stating: “First ever competition between Saeed Malay and Saji Muki! What a wonderful friendship between judokas!”

Mongolian and Azerbaijani Moulay and Muki became friends after a highly publicized incident at the 2019 World Cup and have supported each other over the past few years.

Muki congratulated his friend Said Moulay on his silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the men’s 81kg category last year when he represented Mongolia, two years after leaving his native Iran.

In April 2021, the International Judo Federation announced the expulsion of the Iranian Judo Federation for four years due to Tehran’s demand that its athletes refuse to stand up to their Israeli counterparts.

The ban began retroactively in September 2019 when Saeed Mollaei left the Iranian national team during the World Cup in Tokyo, saying he was ordered to lose to avoid facing the Israeli.

Source: agencies

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