Trần Thị Thanh Thúy is the most well-rounded player of Việt Nam volleyball. — Photo FC Trần Thị Thanh Thúy

Trần Thị Thanh Thúy received a pen and was busy signing T-shirts for many supporters who made up a long queue outside the gymnasium after her match.

The Japanese fans had fallen in love with Thúy, the only Vietnamese player competing in Japan's V.League Division 1 volleyball tournament.

Playing far away from home, she receives strong love and support because of her talent and skill in all aspects of the game, which made her one of the 10 best Vietnamese players in volleyball history.

Thúy feels loved as she has been recently voted the Most Favourite Player of 2023 at the Victory Cup, the annual national award honouring the best athletes, teams, coaches and sportsmanship.

Tall and strong

Born in 1997 in Bình Dương Province, Thúy impressed everyone with her height. At age 13, the 1.78m-tall girl, had the ideal arm span, reach, and vertical jump, and was recruited for Bình Điền Long An Club.

Trần Thị Thanh Thúy signs for supporters after a match with PFU BlueCats. She
has big fan club in both Việt Nam and Japan. — Photo FC Trần Thị Thanh Thúy

Thúy became a national team member at 17 and has been a key player on both teams ever since then. Thúy might be not the best Vietnamese player but she is the most well-rounded.

She is great at attacking. With powerful serves and spikes, and is considered an unstoppable 'scoring machine' of the team. The 26-year-old is also strong in blocking and regarded as a 'great shield' that disappointed many attackers.

"She has confidence and a very good competitive spirit. She helps to pull the whole team up from difficulty," said coach Nguyễn Tuấn Kiệt.

"Thúy always plays more than 100 per cent of her ability. She never gives up if there is still a small hope to save the ball or score a point."

Thai coach Danai Sriwatcharamethakul also appreciates Thúy who is always a big challenge in Việt Nam and Thailand matches.

Trần Thị Thanh Thúy (No 3) seen in action during Việt Nam vs South Korea match at the 19th Asian Games 2023 in China. — Photo FC Trần Thị Thanh Thúy

"Thúy is an excellent player with great performances. My players have to keep a close eye on her throughout the matches," he said.

After signing a contract with Japanese side PFU BlueCats in June 2021, Thúy became the volleyballer who played for the most foreign teams in history, going abroad four times to play for Bangkok Glass VC (Thailand), Attack Line (Taiwan), Denso Airybees and BlueCats (Japan).

Her current transfer value is up to US$250,000 while her salary of around VNĐ11 billion ($450,000) per year, a record contract and a dream for not only volleyballers but also players of other sports.

"I am happy with my career and also feel lucky too," said Thúy.

"The volleyball environment here is much different from Việt Nam. I was quite overwhelmed in the early days, but gradually caught up with the pace, and now I am good here.

Trần Thị Thanh Thúy (No 3) has been key player of both her club and the national team. — Photo FC Trần Thị Thanh Thúy

"The most significant difference is that I have to change positions, play as a middle-blocker instead of an outside hitter. I believe that if I play in my favourite position, I will do better. However, it is the coaches' plan and if it is good for the team, I have to adapt. The coaches believe in me, so I will work harder. As a middle-blocker, my dig serves are not good enough. I am trying to improve."

Thúy was one of the top five players with the best finishing efficiency (46 per cent success) and top of the best defensive players with 59 blocking points this season.

"Receiving a high salary is also a pressure on me. Each game is a challenge, but it also helps me to be stronger and braver," she said.

Volleyball statue

The Victory Cup's Most Favourite Player title was the only one of 11 categories decided by supporters.

Trần Thị Thanh Thúy spikes during a match between Việt Nam and Indonesia at the 32nd SEA Games 2023 in Cambodia. — Photo FC Trần Thị Thanh Thúy

After two months since its launch, Thúy received 17,074 votes, nearly double that of the nearest nominee.

It was due to her outstanding performance and leadership through the year that led Việt Nam, for the first time, to take top podiums of the Asian Women's Volleyball Club Cup and Asian Volleyball Confederation Challenge Cup. She was the AVC Challenge Cup 2023's MVP and best outside hitter.

The Asian wins brought Việt Nam's spots at the FIVB Women's Club World Championship and FIVB Challenger Cup, respectively, for the first time in history.

Thúy also played a key role in Việt Nam's 32nd SEA Games silver, SEA V. League's silvers and the Asian Games' top four.

Trần Thị Thanh Thúy (third, right) and her teammates at PFU BlueCats. — Photo FC Trần Thị Thanh Thúy

Volleybox has picked Thúy as one of the BlueCats' five best players in the club history as she is among the top scorers of the 2023-24 season, and placed the outside hitter at No 23 in the list of the world's best women volleyballers. VNS