A young Kazakh volleyball player has become an international sensation at this year’s Asian Under-19 Volleyball Championship.
Sabina Altynbekova, 18, has unexpectedly accumulated thousands of fans across Southeast Asia that can’t get enough of her beauty. She’s been featured in countless newspaper articles and even has adoring fans creating anime cartoons starring her.
According to the Russian-speaking newspaper Vesti, the attention is so overwhelming that many fans in attendance don’t even pay attention to the game anymore.
“Fans just stare at her and they are not following the championship anymore,” the paper says.
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Altynbekova said that although she enjoyed the attention at first, it’s gotten a bit out of hand.
“I was flattered at first but it's all getting a little bit much,” she said. “I want to concentrate on playing volleyball and to be famous for that, not anything else.”
Despite her wishes, Altynbekova is the main attraction in hundreds of online fan pages filled with people obsessing over her.
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Her coach told said that all the attention had a negative impact on the team’s tournament chances.
“It is impossible to work like this,” he said. “The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship.”
The Kazakh team was eliminated by India in a 2-3 loss on Wednesday, so we’ll see if her fame lives on after the tournament.