October 8, 2019
Mohammad Mansouri says his contract as the head coach of Iran’s judo national side is valid up to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, but he has decided not to return to the country.
In an exclusive interview with Radio Farda, Mansouri has explained the reasons behind his decision, and the controversial conditions of sports in the Islamic Republic.
Meanwhile, for the first time, Mansouri has also talked about an Iranian Gold medalist judoka, Saeid Mollaei, who was forced to give away matches in the recent world championship to avoid fighting with an Israeli athlete.
“I had lost my motivation. I was fed up,” Mansouri says, adding, “The foundation of the building in Iran is rickety, and it might collapse at any time. Nevertheless, the authorities are obsessed with the color of its facade. One cannot serve in Iran. They do not allow you to work. The day Saeid Mollaei fell victim (to the Islamic Republic’s unwritten law that bans Iranian athletes from competing with their Israeli counterparts), I went to the training session, but unable to coach. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t concentrate. All of a sudden, I stood upon the tatami, which is the love of my life, and where I have given my whole life to; and loudly told the athletes to stop training. What’s the use of training, I demanded? Do you want to train and end up like Saeid Mollaei (who was forced to give away another Gold Medal and world title to obey the Islamic Republic’s policy?) Do you want to be told to keep mum and lose? Don’t waste your time on tatamis. Go and enjoy your youth.”
For the first time, Mansouri reveals that Iran’s judo federation reached the verge of being expelled from international events, long before the Tokyo championship last August.
“The International Judo Federation (IJF) had earlier almost decided to disqualify Iran during the Grand Slam in Paris, where Mollaei had to deliberately lose a match under pressure to avoid fighting an Israeli. He was shedding tears. I was also close to breaking into tears. However, we were lucky not to be disqualified.,” Says Mansouri.
It was obvious that sooner or later, IJF would hold Iran accountable, Mansouri insists, referring to the tactics used by Iranian athletes to skip any match with their Israeli counterparts.
The hero of Iranian judo, Mansouri notes, “Saeid Mollaei once was forced to feign sickness for four times in one single year, to avoid fighting an Israeli. In Abu Dhabi, they plastered his healthy leg, as an excuse for leaving the competition. They ordered another Iranian superstar judoka, Mohammad Mohammadi Barimanlou, to stop losing weight to be eliminated from the next round of the championship.”
After a surprise defeat in Tokyo, Saeid Mollaei disappeared in Tokyo, and days later resurfaced in Germany, where Mansouri also lives in self-exile.
Mollaei is scheduled to represent the refugees’ judo side in the next Summer Olympic Games in 2020, in Tokyo. Mansouri hopes to be on the side of his former student, “My dream has always been to coach a team in the Olympic Games. Right now, I am training with Saeid Mollaei in Germany, hoping that I would also be at his side in Tokyo 2020.”
According to Mansouri, the Islamic Republic cannot carry on with hypocrisy.
The Islamic Republic authorities insist that fighting Israel is their utmost mission, Mansouri argues, adding, “If that is really the case, they should openly declare and relay it to all international sports federations, and accept being banned from all world events. Otherwise, they should somehow find a way to end the tribulation of Iranian athletes who lose the chance of being world champions simply because of facing an Israeli athlete.”