Iranian-born Saeid Mollaei, now representing Mongolia, says he is ‘happy’ to arrive in Israel for first time. Mollaei landed overnight Sunday in Israel ahead of his participation in the Tel Aviv Grand Slam competition beginning next Thursday, in which he will represent Mongolia and he is looking forward to see his friend Sagi Muki in his own country. An impossible trip for Mollaei in the past.
Upon landing in Ben Gurion Airport, which is mostly shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic, he was welcomed by chairman of Israel’s Judoka Association, Moshe Fonte.
“I’m very happy to arrive at the competition. Thank you for everything and for the reception, I wish all the best to Israelis,” the Iranian-born said at the airport, cited by online news agency N12.
Mollaei was transferred to a so-called “coronavirus hotel” for a short isolation period. He will be required to test negative for COVID-19 before entering the tournament.
Fighting in the U 81kg category, Mollaei holds two world medals including bronze and gold.
Germany granted refugee status Mollaei in November 2019 after claiming he was coerced by Iranian officials to lose the competition before facing off against Israeli Sagi Muki at the World Judo Championship in Tokyo on August 28. Subsequently, the President of Mongolia, Kh. Battulga, issued a decree granting him Mongolian citizenship.
On his flight to Tel Aviv were another 150 people, mostly judoka and coaches from across the globe for the grand slam tournament.