The Thailand Volleyball Association (TVA) on Saturday distanced itself from a political controversy after the women's national team took photos with Pita Limjaroenrat, the Move Forward Party leader and its prime ministerial candidate after a midweek match.
On Thursday, Mr Pita and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, co-founders of the Progressive Movement which assisted heavily with the MFP campaign, sat in the front zone to watch the 2023 Volleyball Nations League (VNL) match between Thailand and Turkey at Hua Mark Indoor Stadium.
After the game, Mr Pita went on the court and took group photos with the players. It led to criticism from netizens over the political stance of the TVA.
In response, the association said it had always had a quota of 40 seats per match reserved for those who support the association.
It denied sending the invitation to political figures. "The incident affected the image of the TVA. We have warned Tero Entertainment, the event organiser, that they must not mix sports with politics. They must not do anything that harms the reputation of the TVA, coaches, national players or related parties until the end of the tournament [today]," it said.
Mr Pita said on Saturday it was normal for political figures all over the world to attend sports matches as audience members.
In related news, the national volleyball team was also criticised on social media when a picture of national team player Ajcharaporn Kongyot making a three-finger gesture during a match went viral.
The gesture was reminiscent of the anti-government three-finger salute used by protesters at recent gatherings.
TVA said on Friday that Ms Ajcharaporn's three-finger gesture was in fact a signal for another player when the team played in another VNL match in Brazil on June 18.
The association added that the signal is considered a global signal for volleyball players worldwide.