'Fabulous women' of Thailand
Fans, officials shower praise on retiring aces
published : 22 Jun 2021 at 04:00
updated: 22 Jun 2021 at 05:59
newspaper section: Sports
Thailand's Fab Six have won praise from officials and fans both at home and abroad for their contribution and determination after they bade farewell to international volleyball on Sunday.
The veterans -- team captain Wilavan Apinyapong, Malika Kanthong, Onuma Sittirak, Pleumjit Thinkaow, Nootsara Tomkom, and Amporn Hyapha -- thanked their fans for their support for some two decades.
They played their last game for the Thai national team at the FIVB Women's Volleyball Nations League in Rimini, Italy, on Sunday.
They lost 3-1 to hosts Italy and finished last in the 16-nation tournament with two wins against Germany and Canada and 13 losses.
But the results seemed irrelevant and the sport's governing body FIVB has hailed them as "fabulous women".
"Coming from a country with a rich volleyball history in Southeast Asia, six women came together to chase their dreams and become the country's sporting heroes," said an article on FIVB website fivb.com.
"What they lacked in height they more than made up for with creativity, technique, speed, teamwork, heart and passion.
"Their two-decade-long careers were filled with some highs and lows, but the pinnacle of it all would be the values of friendship, determination, courage, inspiration and respect that powered Thailand to success."
Indeed, the Thailand Volleyball Association (TVA) called up a young team for the 2021 VNL, hoping to groom them to win the country's first ever Olympic berth in the sport at Paris 2024.
Unfortunately, a large number of them tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the TVA to ask the Fab Six to help the country for one last time.
"I planned to have a baby before I came here, but to play here with such amazing friends and teammates is a beautiful story we had at the VNL 2021," said Wilavan, affectionately known by her teammates and fans as Captain Gift, her nickname.
"I would like the new generation who will be replacing us to do their best. They do not need to put pressure on themselves to outdo us. We will be behind you."
The FIVB article added: "Their success cannot be measured by wins and losses, but by how they made an impact on the sport. Their great contribution to the VNL and the sport over the years have inspired and moved people.
"The stories about their humble beginnings, their remarkable experiences and their ascent to glory truly deserve recognition. Their dedication is testament to their success, and for that, the volleyball community is pleased and grateful to have witnessed these fabulous Thai women."
The TVA thanked the players and staff of the stand-in team for giving their best in every match at the VNL.
"The volleyball family appreciates and would like to say thank you, and praise the fighting spirit of the trainers, staff and players," the association said in a message posted on its Facebook page.
Evergreen singer Thongchai McIntyre yesterday posted a thank you message on his Facebook account.
"You are the best. You are in our hearts and will be forever," he wrote.
Nootsara put the meaning of the sport simply: "Volleyball is my happiness."
"Volleyball has been my life for more than 20 years. I am proud to say that it has become part of our lives," she added.
"I truly enjoyed the time I spent with my teammates as we played our best and enjoyed the game. My wish for our young players is to play like us and make our fans proud. And to the fans, thank you for all the support you have given us."
Those feelings were mirrored by her teammates. "Thank you for the applause," Amporn said.
"Thank you for fighting together with us," Malika said.
"Thank you for being with us," Onuma said.
"Thank you for all the encouragement that made us who we are today," Wilavan said.
"On behalf of the Fab Six, throughout the past 20 years, thank you everyone. We are grateful to be part of the volleyball family," Pleumjit said.
However, they will continue playing for their clubs.