The International Judo Federation (IJF) announced in a statement on Saturday that Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei has received official notice from the German Office for Migration and Refugees that he may now legally benefit from the status of “Recognized Refugee.”
Mollaei, 27, made headlines after ignoring Iranian demands to throw a match, or to withdraw from the World Judo Championships in order to avoid competing against an Israeli judoka.
The athlete subsequently fled to Germany to apply for asylum as a refugee. The IJF noted that the administrative procedures are not yet complete, and that Mollaei must still obtain papers in order to travel and participate in World Judo Tour competitions, in order to continue to collect valuable points at the World Ranking List.
Still, his current status gives Mollaei the right the live in Germany legally and safely, where he now trains and is preparing to resume his career – which he was forced to suspend following his flight from Tokyo in August.
“I am very happy and I want to thank from the bottom of my heart everybody who helped me in those difficult moments,” Mollaei said. “Now I can fully concentrate on judo and the preparation for the next IJF events and for the Olympic Games.”
In response to Iran’s ongoing boycott of Israeli athletes, the International Judo Federation has banned Iran from all international competitions. The ban will remain in effect “until the Iran Judo Federation gives strong guarantees and prove that they will respect the IJF Statutes and accept that their athletes fight against Israeli athletes”.