Beauties and the best
How true [is it] that your volleyball team is made up of beautiful women?” a Singaporean reporter asked this writer in hushed tones in a quiet corner of the media center during last year’s Southeast Asian Games in the Lion City.
There’s nothing inappropriate about the guy’s inquisitiveness.
With the giant image of the beauteous Rachel Anne Daquis emblazoned on walls of Singaporean malls during the Games came the impression that members of the Philippine team indeed got the looks and the talent.
Last year, Thai television giant SMM sent a team to observe the matches of the Philippine Superliga (PSL). The visitors were so impressed with what they saw the Thai volleyball federation invited a Manila selection to vie in the Thai-Denmark Super League in Bangkok.
It can’t be denied that Philippine volleyball is enjoying a resurgence and popularity in the region because of the women’s improved play, inasmuch as how they project themselves on the court.
That isn’t exactly how PSL president Ramon “Tats” Suzara envisioned the league to attract fans but says he is thrilled at how other countries now welcome Filipino women to play in their leagues. What’s important, he says, is that Philippine volleyball is back on the map.
It’s a pleasant fact that several Filipino volleybelles are being courted by different Thai clubs to spice up their tournaments. Playing in Thailand, among the continent’s volleyball hotspots, will make these “imports” millionaires in less than a year. Off hand, they each stand to receive a monthly salary of between $3,000 and $5,000 (about P150,000 and P250,000), according to Suzara.
These are way, way above what the best Filipino women players get from their respective local clubs. Several players from PSL teams are said to be getting no more than P80,000 each.
“This is a good opportunity for our local players,” says Suzara, who is also the head of marketing of the Asian Volleyball Confederation (AVC) and member of the development committee of the International Volleyball Federation, FIVB. “Now they (foreign leagues) are noticing that PSL is fast becoming a viable pro league with good players who have the skills to compete.”
Not bad for a country that, prior to Singapore 2015, failed to come up with a women’s team competitive enough to see action in the SEA Games for 10 straight years.
Last year, everything pointed north for local volleyball when the country staged, one after the other, the AVC and FIVB women’s club championships featuring a team each from PSL.
The country’s most famous player, three-time Shakey’s V-League and UAAP MVP Alyssa Valdez, has received a formal offer to play for 3BB Nakornnont in the second phase of the Thailand League from Jan. 15 to March 31. Valdez is scheduled to fly to Bangkok next week, all expenses paid.
“I’d like to request your prayers and support because this is a challenge I’ve never encountered before,” says the 23-year-old Valdez.
Less than 24 hours after the Thai team called up Valdez, Suzara revealed that PSL stars Jaja Santiago, Aby Maraño, Kim Fajardo and Jovelyn Gonzaga were also being sought by Thai squads. Unlike Valdez, though, the PSL stars will beef up different clubs for the Thai-Denmark meet, a short tournament on the Thailand League calendar.
Maraño, the explosive F2 Logistics middle blocker, says she’s excited to have caught the attention of foreign teams.
“It’s a great honor for me and an opportunity to play with or against my idol,” says Maraño, referring to Thai star middle blocker Pleumjit Thinkaow, who plays for Bangkok Glass.
Foton superstar Santiago is being pursued by Supreme, whose coaching staff saw how the 6-foot-5 middle blocker stood her ground impressively against the best in the world in both the AVC and FIVB club tournaments.
The Thai offers for the Filipino volleybelles are not exactly groundbreaking, though. A male player beat the women to it. In 1991, Oliver Balse became the first Filipino to play for a foreign team when he saw action in the Malaysian Professional League.
The recent Thai offers to Valdez and company only proves that in volleyball, beauty will get you noticed but talent will get you the gig.
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