Taipei - They came in droves, undaunted by rain and heavy winds as Typhoon Matmo passed through Taiwan. The team they cheered for lost on Wednesday, but it did not dampen their spirits.
Because this crowd, a group of - temporary, probably - volleyball lovers, really only had eyes for a sweet-faced, leggy player from Kazakhstan. That would be Sabina Altynbekova, 17, who has emerged as a media star from the 17th Asian Women's U19 Volleyball Championship in Taipei this month.
On Wednesday, her team lost to India in the semi-finals with a score of 2-3, despite the support of Taiwanese fans holding Kazakh flags, said Apple Daily. She spent the afternoon on the bench and she looked far from pleased at the end of the game, said the report. But cameras were trained on her every move - and maybe also her legs, which are said to be 1.2m long - the entire time.
Volleyball fan Chen Chi-hsu said he took the day off to come to the game and see Altynbekova in person, after catching sight of her on television, reported Central News Agency. He said he turned up the game one hour early, like many other fans.
At the post-game press conference, Altynbekova said she was "very surprised" by the media's interest in her, but added: "I think this might help publicise Kazakhstan." Apple Daily said she had refused to attend the press conference at one point, but she showed up eventually because the media kept asking to speak to her.
She said she had a good impression of the Taiwanese. "The Taiwanese are very warm and kind. I feel like we're the home team. I've seen many Taiwanese boys and I feel they're quite lovely."
But she said she would be happier if people would focus on her game, instead of her looks.
Since she shot to fame, Taiwanese mall Breeze Center has approached her about an endorsement and Hong Kong actress Chrissie Chau's manager is planning to invite Altynbekova's team to Hong Kong for a friendly, said Apple Daily.
On Wednesday, she declined Breeze Center's offer, however. "I love volleyball. Volleyball is my life. I just want to focus on it now. I don't want to be distracted by other things," she said.
She had pretty much the same answer when she was asked about a guy in a photo on her Instagram page. "I don't have a boyfriend. He's just a friend from school. I'm now in the national team and I just want to focus on volleyball."