Thai volleyball coach makes surprise comeback in national league

By Hoang Nguyen   February 19, 2024 | 06:26 pm PT
Thai volleyball coach makes surprise comeback in national league
Wilavan Apinyapong as a player for the Thailand national women's volleyball team. Photo by the Asian Volleyball Confederation
At 39, retired Thailand volleyball star Wilavan Apinyapong, the head coach of Chonburi, decided to return to the court, joining in the semifinal and third-place playoff of the national league.

Apinyapong's return is one of the biggest surprises in the Women’s Volleyball Thailand League this season. In the semifinal and third-place playoff last week, Apinyapong, who retired in 2021 and is currently the head coach of Supreme TIP Chonburi-E.Tech, appeared in the volleyball jersey like in her prime and competed alongside her players as a libero.

With her talent and extensive experience as a player, Apunyapong helped Chonburi finish in the top three of the league, creating a dramatic competition with Diamond Food Fine Chef – Air Force, who finished second behind champions Nakhon Ratchasima Huione QminC.

Chonburi is also the club of two Vietnamese players Hoang Thi Kieu Trinh and Doan Thi Lam Oanh.

Apinyapong is considered one of Thailand’s greatest-ever volleyball players. She played for the national team from 2001 to 2021 as an outside hitter and was the captain from 2008 to 2016.

In 2019, Apinyapong led the Thailand national team to its first gold medal at the 2009 Asian Women’s Volleyball Championship, beating China for the first time in history. Four years later, she led the team to the title again.

At club level, she has had spells in Thailand, Spain, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Vietnam.

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