Half the people I know had World Cup fever because they really do care about soccer. The other half really cares about hot male soccer players. Handsome—and super sexy—athletes like David Beckham, Victor Cruz, and Tom Brady, might be revered for their skills on the field or court, but they’re as celebrated for their looks, looks that land them major contracts, supermodel girlfriends, and even their own brands. In fact, no one’s ever suggested that being hot is anything other than awesome for these guys, let alone a problem that gets in the way of their ability to score.
Now, however, comes news of an athlete deemed too hot to continue playing for Kazakhstan’s youth team—a female athlete. Eighteen-year-old Sabina Altynbekova’s a stellar player, but her coach tells Tengrin News, “It’s impossible to work like this. The crowd behaves like there is only one player at the championship.” Her teammates are annoyed too, even as she insists she’s in the game for all the right reasons. According to the Daily Mail, Altynbekova said, “I was flattered at first but it’s all getting a little bit much. I want to concentrate on playing volleyball and to be famous for that, not anything else.”
Altynbekova's fans, however, won't be dissuaded from showing their adoration. The Independent reports that a Facebook fan page has earned 200,000 likes since the Asian Under-19 Championships in Taipei and a fan-run Twitter has almost 40,000 followers. YouTube videos edited to focus solely on Altynbekova are garnering views in the millions and the attention is even spreading off the Internet, where local newspapers are devoting multiple pages to the athlete and fans have turned her into an anime character. The only social media account she does have, Instagram, has over 50,000 followers, and Altynbekova has gone so far as to ask her fans to stop posting about her online.
In the age of celebrities being airbrushed to oblivion, women are too often bombarded with images suggesting they aren’t attractive enough. Now they’re too attractive? There’s no shortage of battles for equality that we continue to wage—from the boardroom to politics, and even at home—to add sports to the list of double standards is a dangerous turn for the worst. In fact, team sports are often touted as the key to greater confidence in young girls, higher high school graduation rates, lower teen pregnancy, and greater over-all well-being and healthy body image. Altynbekova should be celebrated for her skills on the court and if she looks great hitting the ball over the net, celebrated for that, too. If the world awards David Beckham with massive billboards of his torso in Times Square, surely we can handle a hot volleyball player.