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Hosts aiming to reassert their superiority in front of home fans as ISTAF SuperSeries THAILAND 2013/14 kicks off

BANGKOK, (25 SEPTEMBER 2013): ISTAF SuperSeries THAILAND 2013/14 kicks off here this Thursday and as in any international-class sepaktakraw tournament, all eyes will be on defending ISTAF SuperSeries champions Thailand. But this time around, for very different reasons.

The men’s team suffered a shock defeat to Korea in the first leg of ISTAF SuperSeries 2013/14 in New Delhi, India, falling in straight sets of 15-12, 15-13, 15-10 in the quarter-finals. It was Thailand’s first ever loss in the ISTAF SuperSeries since winning the inaugural tournament in 2011/12 and also the first time the team had dropped a single set.

The then third-seeded Koreans, who went on to defeat Malaysia in the finals to win their first ISTAF SuperSeries tournament, gave Thailand’s head coach Somporn Seanyabut and his boys a wake-up call with their power-packed performance and opened up a whole new chapter in a game long dominated by the Thais.

“Korea is a very good team, but the fact is that even before ISTAF SuperSeries INDIA 2013/14 I only gave our team a 50-50 chance to win all our matches,” said Somporn. “This was because my boys had been playing a full club schedule coming into the tournament and were only performing at about 70% of their full capabilities.”

Somporn, who also attributed his team’s historic defeat to the fact that he was experimenting with a mix of veteran and first-time internationals in New Delhi, said things would be different in Bangkok.

“We will be playing with our full team and are determined to perform our best in front of our home fans.”

The home boys are seeded fourth in ISTAF SuperSeries THAILAND 2013/14 behind Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia, but look set to breeze into the quarter-finals after being drawn together with Iran and Brunei in Group D.

Top seeds Korea are expected to face some resistance from India in Group A but both teams are a shoe-in for the quarters as they only have current men’s World No. 17 China in their group for company. Second seeds Malaysia also look like quarter-final material as they play Germany and Japan in Group B, as do third seeds Indonesia, who are in Group C with the United States and Singapore.

The women’s competition has defending champions and top seeds Thailand drawn in Group A alongside Vietnam, Japan and India. The hosts are expected to easily top their group, having defeated third seeds and current women’s World No. 2 Vietnam in straight sets in the semi-finals in New Delhi en route to winning the first leg of the SuperSeries by defeating Indonesia 3-1.

In Group B, second seeds Indonesia and fourth seeds Malaysia are favourites for the semi-finals at the expense of China and Korea.

The second leg of the internationally-recognised tournament, which kicks off September 26 and pits 20 of the best men’s and women’s teams against one another over four days of gravity-defying action, will be played at Island Hall, in Fashion Island, one of Bangkok’s largest and most popular shopping malls located in the Khanna Yao district.

This is the third time the venue has hosted the event, having hosted the inaugural tournament in 2011 and opening its doors again to the ISTAF SuperSeries finals in 2012.

In both men’s and women’s competition, only the top two teams from each group advance to the play-off stage based on points accumulated. Unlike ISTAF SuperSeries INDIA, where each match was decided over five sets, group, play-off and quarter-final matches here will be decided in three sets over 15 points. The semi-finals, 3rd/4th placing and final matches will all be played over five sets.

The ISTAF SuperSeries platform is organised by International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF) and Asia Sports Ventures (ASV) – ISTAF’s exclusive global commercial and development partner. ISTAF SuperSeries THAILAND 2013/14 is supported by local organisers Takraw Association of Thailand (TAT). The second leg in Bangkok will be followed by ISTAF SuperSeries MALAYSIA 2013/14 in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah from October 31 to November 3. The 2013/14 season kicked off with ISTAF SuperSeries INDIA 2013/14 in New Delhi from August 29 to September 1.

Thailand Association of Takraw (TAT) treasurer Boonchai Lorhpipat, who was recently elected one of two ISTAF Deputy Presidents after serving as the Federation’s treasurer, said Bangkok was all prepared to host the second leg of the elite tournament.

“We have been ready for quite some time and as always, we will be expecting a huge crowd of loyal sepaktakraw fans to cheer on participating teams, especially Thailand’s men’s and women’s teams,” he said.

Asia Sports Ventures Director and CEO, Jeff Chue, said Korea’s remarkable rise to the top of the game was testament to just how quickly teams improved when given a platform such as the SuperSeries to compete on an annual basis.

“The ISTAF SuperSeries is the world’s first and only elite platform for regular sepaktakraw competition at the highest level, which in turn affords teams the opportunity to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents and compete accordingly,” he said. “Thailand’s first ever SuperSeries loss demonstrates that it’s no longer just a one-horse race, but is in fact a dynamic sport where the other teams are catching up and progressing very rapidly, something which has exceeded all initial expectations.”

ISTAF SuperSeries THAILAND 2013/14 will be televised on Thailand’s leading network Channel 3 for the selected matches featuring the Thai men’s and women’s teams from September 26-29 and the final match on September 29 from 15.00 hr. Sports fans throughout the region will get to enjoy almost eight hours of live TV coverage.

All in all, ISTAF SuperSeries THAILAND 2013/14 will be watched by fans in 70 countries.

ISTAF SuperSeries THAILAND 2013/14
September 26-29

Men’s competition
Group A: Korea (1), India, China
Group B: Malaysia (2), Germany, Japan
Group C: Indonesia (3), USA, Singapore
Group D: Thailand (4), Iran, Brunei

Women’s competition
Group A: Thailand (1), Vietnam (3), Japan, India
Group B: Indonesia (2), Malaysia (4), China, Korea

Established in 1988, the International Sepaktakraw Federation (ISTAF) is the international governing body for the sport of sepaktakraw and is recognised by the Olympic Movement. ISTAF is officially based in Thailand and has its Secretariat in Singapore. Under Asian Sepaktakraw Federation (ASTAF), sepaktakraw has enjoyed medal-sport status at the South-East Asian Games since 1965 and uninterrupted medal status at the Asian Games since 1990. It was also introduced by ISTAF as a demonstration sport at the 2009 World Games in Chinese Taipei.

ISTAF SuperSeries is the world’s first and only elite international competition that brings together the best sepaktakraw teams and players from around the world to showcase the sport to a global audience. Alongside the ISTAF World Cup, the ISTAF SuperSeries is the only sepaktakraw tournament recognised by ISTAF and therefore plays a key role in deciding the official ISTAF World Rankings.

The ISTAF SuperSeries is played using a grand prix format, where national teams compete in a series of tournaments during a season. The first season was held from September 2011 to July 2012 and comprised four ISTAF SuperSeries tournaments.

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