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February 11, 2020 4:08 pm

Iranian, Israeli Judokas Celebrate Friendship With Joint Picture From Paris Grand Slam

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Israeli Sagi Muki, winner of the 2019 World Judo Championship. Photo: Naoki Nishimura / Aflo Sports / Reuters.

Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei and his Israeli counterpart Sagi Muki celebrated their friendship by posing for a photo together over the weekend at the Paris Grand Slam 2020 and then sharing the picture on their respective Instagram accounts.

Mollaei, 27, posted the photo on Instagram with the caption, “Because friendship matters more than anything else and because he simply is my friend” while Muki, who won the Judo World Championship in Tokyo last year, wrote “Friend for life!!! Tag Israel and Iran people for peace!”

He added about Mollaei, “I met him at Grand Slam Paris. Two world champions but before that two good friends.”

The two athletes met in person for the first time at the competition, held Feb. 8-9 in France.

Mollaei and Muki received plenty of support from social media users for posting the photo, including from Israeli judoka Ori Sasson.

Mollaei fled to Germany after Iranian authorities instructed him to withdraw from competing in the semi-final of the 2019 World Judo Championships in Tokyo in August to avoid potentially going against Muki. Iran’s actions resulted in the International Judo Federation suspending the Iran Judo Federation from all activities held by the international organization.

In September, Mollaei called Muki his friend during an interview with the German news outlet Deutsche Welle, thanked him for his support and said he hopes to “extend” their friendship outside of competitions.

In November, Muki congratulated Mollaei on his competitive debut as part of the Grand Slam Osaka Refugee Team at the Judo Grand Slam in Osaka, Japan.

Mollaei replied by called the Israeli his “best friend” and said, “It doesn’t matter who wins, what matters is friendship.”

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