Foreign stars kiss Manila goodbye

The FIVB Women’s Club Championship is now in the books, but the wonderful experience and friendship among the seven local players and seven imports will forever be in their hearts.

Yesterday, all teams led by champion Eczacibasi VitrA Istanbul packed their bags for their respective counties.

Eczacibasi, fellow Turkish league powerhouse VakifBank Istanbul and Volero Zurich boarded the Turkish Airlines flight TK85 bound for Istanbul around 9:30 pm while Rexona-Sesc Rio and Pomi Casalmaggiore took the Emirates Airlines flight EK335 bound for Dubai shortly before midnight.

Prior to that, Bangkok Glass left for Bangkok via Thai Airways flight TG621 around 1:05 pm while Hisamitsu Springs Kobe departed for Osaka via Philippine Airlines flight PR408 an hour later.

While some of PSL-F2 Logistics Manila’s foreign team members will stay in the country to suit up in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix like Stephanie Niemer for Petron, Lynda Morales for Cignal and Lindsay Stalzer and coach Moro Branislav for Foton, some of them will be leaving to resume their respective careers elsewhere.

Volleyverse asked around about where Ukrainian Yevgeniya Nyukhalova, Japanese Shun Takahashi and Yuri Fukuda, Russian Ekaterina Krivets and Thai Tichaya Boonlert would land after representing the Philippines in the biggest and most prestigious club tournament in the world.

Yevgeniya Nyukhalova

After serving as a pillar of strength at the opposite position for PSL-F2 Logistics Manila, Nyukhalova will be taking her talent back to Zurich to resume her professional career with Volero Zurich, the most competitive squad in the Swiss League which has a winning streak of more than 150 games and counting.

She obviously fell in love with Manila. In fact, she spent her last day at SM Mall of Asia and Robinson’s Manila searching for dried mangoes together with Ekaterina Krivets, Shun Takahashi and Yuri Fukuda.

Her agent was also here together with Volero Zurich to make sure that her flight out of the country will be well taken care of.

Ekaterina Krivets

Krivets was obviously not in great shape at the start of the FIVB Women’s Club World Championship. Although sources said that she’s under the weather, it appears that she’s recuperating from a knee injury that robbed her of her mobility and athleticism.

With that, the former Dinamo Krasnodar standout will be flying to Moscow not to suit up for any club in the Russian League, but to take a breather and receive treatment.

She will join Nyukhalova in the flight to Dubai Tuesday night before boarding another flight to Moscow.

Yuri Fukuda

If there’s somebody who swept Filipino fans off their feet, it’s obviously Fukuda. During the entire tournament, Fukuda was spectacular at the defensive end, making her a fan-favorite and instant celebrity. Aside from that, her friendship with local stars, especially fellow libero Jen Reyes, was one of a kind.

But good things must come to an end.

Fukuda left with Shun Takahashi Tuesday morning for Tokyo to rejoin her mother club in the Japanese V. Challenge League 1, the Ohno-group Hiroshima Oilers.

Prior to that, she joined Jaja Santiago and some members of Foton Tornadoes for some sort of a despedida party she branded as “sake night.”

Tichaya Boonlert

The 19-year old Tichaya Boonlert may be too young for sake night. That’s why she spent her last few hours in Manila chatting with her friends from Bangkok Glass.
Then, she joined the Asian champion in the flight to Bangkok around lunch Monday together with Asian Volleyball Confederation president Shanrit Wongprasert, other Thai volleyball officials and a handful of Thai journalists.

She will suit up for 3BB Nokhonnont in the Volleyball Thailand League, which will start in few week’s time.

Shun Takahashi

If there’s somebody who melted the heart of Manila, it’s Shun Takahashi. The quiet and good-looking former trainer of the Japanese national women’s team joined Krivets, Nyukhalova and Fukuda in their quest for dried mangoes on Monday in preparation for his flight with Fukuda to Tokyo on Tuesday morning.

From Tokyo where he will spend the next three days, Takahashi will take a 90-minute flight to his hometown in Kumamoto to take a rest. Then, he will fly back to Tokyo to train the all-Japan university team, the pool where the members of the national youth team are plucked.

Sources say a PSL team is seriously interested in hiring his services. But everything still hangs in balance and nothing has yet to materialize.