If soccer is "the beautiful game," has a teenager from Kazakhstan turned volleyball into the "too-beautiful game?"
Critics are saying Sabina Altynbekova, described by various media outlets as either 17 or 18 years old, is so attractive that it’s a distraction to the sport. Even her teammates have noticed the adoration, and one report says Kazakhstan coach Nurlan Sadikov believed fans weren’t even watching the games during a recent competition in Taiwan and instead just stared at her.
"It is impossible to work like this," he told told Tengrin News. "The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship."
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The Straits-Times reported that Taiwanese fans were holding Kazakhstan flags and arriving an hour early to follow her every move.
Videos of Altynbekova abound on YouTube. One four-minute clip posted just last week is up over 550,000 views.
The attention — think Anna Kournikova minus the racket — has even begun to get to Altynbekova. The Daily Mail reports she has asked admirers to stop setting up pages about her on social media sites.
"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."
According to Huffington Post, Altynbekova’s mother was holding out hope Sabina would choose law school instead of a career in sports. She added that her daughter has been asked to model.