Story of friendship between Israeli and Iranian judo champions being made into TV show


(JTA) — The stories of Israeli champion judoka Sagi Muki and his friend Saeid Mollaei, who fled his native Iran after refusing an order not to fight Muki in international competition, are being turned into a TV series.

The project is being jointly produced by MGM/UA Television and Israel’s Tadmor Entertainment, with help from the International Judo Federation, Deadline reported Monday. The report does not include a release date or the network that will air it.

In 2019, Mollaei said his handlers tried to force him to throw matches at that year’s judo world championship in Tokyo so he would not have to face the Israeli Muki, who went on to win the tournament. Mollaei feared for his life after defying his trainers and fled to Germany, where he achieved refugee status. He now competes for Mongolia, and both he and Muki are on track to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

The pair struck a friendly pose at an event last month in Tel Aviv.

“Sagi Muki and Saeid Mollaei are both inspiring and groundbreaking athletes whose rivalry and impossible friendship has transcended the world of judo to captivate sports fans and hearts across the globe,” MGM/UA Television President Steve Stark told Deadline.

A documentary about the duo is also in production.

The news came on the same day that the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided to overturn the International Judo Federation’s ban on Iranian judokas that it laid down after the 2019 scandal. Iranian athletes will again be allowed to compete in international contests, including the upcoming Olympics, barring a successful last-minute appeal.

MGM/UA Television also announced Monday an American series on the life of Golda Meir, the only female prime minister in Israeli history, starring Shira Haas.

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