September 24, 2012 00:00
By Preechachan Wiriyanupappong
Onuma Sittrak, the face of the Thai volleyball team, has signed a US$150,000 (around Bt4.5 million) professional league contract with Azerbaijan's Ignisadchi Baku Volleyball Club on Friday.
The volleyball club also handed over contracts to six other Thai players at Alexander Hotel on Ramkhamhaeng Road. Somporn Chaibangyang, president of the Thailand Volleyball Association, and Shahin Bayramov, representative of Ignisadchi Baku, were present at the ceremony.
The Azerbaijani club has put their faith in the Thailand women’s volleyball team after they made a tremendous impact in the Olympic Qualification Tournament when they beat the likes of Cuba, Taiwan and European champions Serbia.
The Thai squad continued their brilliant form in the FIVB World Grand Prix where they ended fourth, thrashing Dominican Republic, Japan, Serbia and China, who all made it to the London Olympics.
Ignisadchi Baku have asked for the services of seven Thai players, who are in the starting line-up of the Thai national team, to join their club. They comprise Onuma, setter Nootsara Tomkom ($125,000), Pleumjit Thinkaow, Wilavan Apinyapong and Malika Kanthong ($80,000 apiece), Amporn Hyapha ($70,000) and libero Wanna Buakaew ($60,000). Bonuses will also be given depending on their performance.
The playing contract will last around seven months from October 15 to May 15. The seven Thais are due to leave for Azerbaijan in early October shortly after receiving their visas from the Azerbaijan Embassy in Thailand.
Onuma, who won the Best Spiker, the Best Scorer and the Most Valuable Player Awards in the AVC Cup, which Thailand won convincingly, explained her decision to join Igtisadchi Baku. “I will gain valuable overseas experience especially when I play against taller rivals from Europe.
“Not only I but seven of us from the Thai national side will learn together. The experience we gained would be an asset when we play much taller and stronger rivals in future. Of course, I’m pleased with the money they are offering,” the 26-year-old from Surat Thani said.
Ignisadchi Baku was founded in 2007 and qualified for the Challenge Cup after just one season. In the 2009-10 season, the club got third place in the championship, beating the high-profile Azerrail Baku and qualifying for the Challenge Cup the third consecutive season.
Ignisadchi Baku qualified for the CEV (European) Cup last season. The team will kick off their CEV Cup campaign on October 23 with an away match against Sliedrecht Sport in the Netherlands.