TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – For someone many consider as the greatest Thai player of her time, volleyball is more fun in the Philippines.
After learning the sport at 15, Patcharee Sangmuang has come far — literally and figuratively — in her chosen career. Launching her first spike in high school, the 35-year-old Thai legend has traveled far and wide chasing that yellow-and-blue striped ball.
“I love volleyball. I came here because of it,” Sangmuang, who was team captain of many Thai national volleyball teams, told Rappler in an exclusive interview.
But before arriving in Philippine shores, the 5-foot-11 spiker already suited up for several international leagues in Vietnam, China and Russia.
It was in her homeland, though, where she first made her mark in the sport she loves. Her playing career in Thailand saw her win individual and team plums. Her good showing did not go unnoticed as she went on to represent her country in the international stage, where she went head-to-head against some of the strongest teams in the planet in the prestigious Volleyball World Grand Prix.
Being at the helm of Southeast Asian volleyball powerhouse Thailand for more than a decade and leading them to an untainted SEA Games record looks great on one’s resume. But Sangmuang says that reaching the top and actually staying there is not easy.
“It is hard. It is never easy. I really worked hard,” Toy, as she is fondly called by friends and family, said.
Born to a family involved in the construction business in Nakhon Ratchasima, Sangmuang shares that her home country and the Philippines are not two entirely different worlds, well except for language.
Bringing dictionary to practice
“When I first came here in the Philippines, I had trouble communicating with the team. I would bring my dictionary to practice so that I would know what ‘spike’, ‘serve’, and ‘dig’ mean,” Sangmuang said in halting English.
Of course, Toy’s story is not new anymore in the country as more and more Thai players are being invited to spice up the competition in our local leagues.
The lanky but hard-hitting Sangmuang suited up for the star-studded Cagayan in an off-season tournament. With Aiza Maizo, Angge Tabaquero and even more Thai players in the squad, they went on to sweep the tournament en route to another championship and Php 500,000.00 cash.
“The level of competition here and in Thailand is not that far. Every game is not easy. There are many good teams here, that is why I’m here. Volleyball brought me here.”
Well, not really. It was another Thai player Jang Bualee, who has been playing here for many years, who invited and brought her here.
Hand-in-hand in training
“I said yes immediately when Bualee told me to come because I have been hearing good things about the Philippines. And yes I fell in love with your country.”
While she admits that the influx of Thai players into the local volleyball scene might not be welcomed by all, she says that they, along with our homegrown players, can get hand-in-hand in training and raising the level of play here notches higher.
“Volleyball is played by 6 players. I work hard in training so that I can be of good use to my teammates here,” quipped the veteran.
When asked whether we will see her play more years in volleyball, although already in her mid-30’s, Toy says that she wants to play for as long as she can.
“I already have the experience but to stay longer, I must train harder, work harder. The same should be with Filipino players. Hard work is very important.” – Rappler.com
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