Connect with us


Thailand eyes more sepak takraw gold at Asian Games

Legacy Phuket Gazette



PHUKET: His teammates call him the “left-footed killer”, an unlikely nickname for a veteran athlete who plays in the same cheap plimsolls worn by common people throughout his native Thailand.

But with his prolific point-scoring record and deadly finishing, Pornchai Kaokaew carries Thailand’s hopes of delivering them yet another Asian Games gold medal in sepak takraw, an acrobatic hybrid of soccer and volleyball that has spectators gripped with its non-stop dynamism and flair.

Like most of Thailand’s team, Pornchai, 33, is a former soccer player and a soldier groomed by Thailand’s army to maintain the country’s tight stranglehold on a sport few outside of Asia have even heard of.

And a gold medal this month in Incheon, South Korea, brings the added bonus of one million baht (US$31,123), a sum equivalent to nine years of earnings on the basic salary of most Thai soldiers.

“It’s been another motivating factor for us to improve ourselves,” Pornchai told Reuters at a training camp before departing for the Games.

The Thais have won 18 of the 27 Asian Games gold medals awarded in the sport since it made its debut three decades ago, with the men’s team beating Malaysia in the final of the last four team events.

The two countries and Myanmar are among those which claim to have invented sepak takraw, where players cram into a small court and use their head and feet to juggle a rattan ball before teeing it up for one player to blast over the net, akin to a spike in volleyball, or a smash in tennis.

The sport is characterized by electrifying mid-air moves, including pinpoint volleys and bicycle kicks quicker than the blink of an eye, with teams made up of “killers”, “tekongs” and “feeders”.


Sepak takraw’s origins stretch as far back as the 15th century as evidenced by documents in museums of both Malaysia and Thailand. Murals can be seen today at Bangkok’s gilded Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, which is seen by thousands of tourists daily.

Thai head coach Kamol Tankimhong doesn’t care who invented the sport but says his country has played a big part in advancing it, making it a permanent fixture in the Asiad and a blue ribbon event at the biennial South East Asian Games.

“Malaysians say it originated from Malaysia, Myanmar says it originated from them, the truth is that we are one of the countries that have passed the sport on throughout generations,” Kamol told Reuters.

“I’m very confident that we can retain our gold medals like in every other Asian Games in the past.”

The Thai men’s team begun their campaign on Tuesday against South Korea in Group A at the Bucheon Gymnasium. This year’s hosts are the only non-Southeast Asian country to win a sepak takraw gold, having claimed the men’s circle title in 2002.

Thailand is banking on Pornchai to deliver the goods. He has played the sport for 22 years, during which he has honed his kicking skills by spending hours working with a ball tied to the floor.

This week, he’ll be wearing his trusted “Nanyang” plimsolls, the 400-baht shoes he prefers to modern performance footwear.

“I’ve tried out many other types of shoes but Nanyangs are the best,” he added.

Thailand is led by team captain Suriyan Paechan, playing in his fifth games since winning gold in the 1998 tournament. He soon turns 40 and this could be his swansong year.

“To carry on playing another four years would be difficult. I’d be 44 by then,” he said. “I’ve set a target to perform my duties as best as I can and to have my name go down in history by obtaining another gold medal.”

Before he bows out, Suriyan wants to see the sport gain traction outside of Asia and says the high level of skill and the drama it generates warrants a bigger international profile.

“I’d love it for foreigners to play Takraw,” he said. “Takraw has a lot of character. It’s exciting to see people jump and do flips in the air.”

— Reuters


Want more Thailand news from the Thaiger family?

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS for instant updates on your mobile
📝️ Join the conversation on Thaiger Talk - discuss news & life in our Thailand forums
📧 Subscribe to our daily email newsletter
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🔔 Subscribe to or Join our YouTube channel for daily video updates


Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

World42 mins ago

Rare, giant barking deer makes appearance in Cambodia

Coronavirus (Covid-19)45 mins ago

Anutin says health system won’t collapse despite shortages

World1 hour ago

Fire at Chinese martial arts school kills 18, mainly kids

Phuket Sandbox July 1st


Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in July - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages in June!

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Thailand2 hours ago

Man allegedly steals almost 300,000 baht from monk

Thailand3 hours ago

Illegal cigarette shipment busted, valued at 30 million baht

Thailand5 hours ago

Pair arrested for allegedly stealing prepaid phone cards worth 240 million baht, take home almost 150

Best of5 hours ago

Top 5 Indian Restaurants in Bangkok

Phuket6 hours ago

A Korean restaurant catches fire at a Phuket shopping centre

Best of6 hours ago

Top 10 Provinces to visit in Thailand

Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 hours ago

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for emergency use in Thailand

World6 hours ago

1 dead 99 unaccounted for in Florida building collapse

World6 hours ago

Airlines participate in trials of IATA Travel Pass app

Best of7 hours ago

Top 8 Street Foods in Thailand

World7 hours ago

A bed in the sky: Shanghai opens world’s highest luxury hotel

Thailand7 hours ago

GMT Live | Bangkok Covid situation, Klongtoey slums, Sandbox squabbles

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism4 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand4 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism4 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand5 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand6 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8