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Asian Cup 2019: Thai soccer team, rescued from cave, in UAE to cheer for War Elephants

Naveen
ANALYST
Exclusive
882   //    Timeless

Members of the Moo Pa — Wild Boars — football team (from left) Adul Sam-on, Chanin Vibulrungruang, assistant coach Ekapol Chantawong (assistant coach) and Pornchai Kamluang at the Al Nahyan stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Image: Naveen
Members of the Moo Pa — Wild Boars — football team (from left) Adul Sam-on, Chanin Vibulrungruang, assistant coach Ekapol Chantawong (assistant coach) and Pornchai Kamluang at the Al Nahyan stadium in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Image: Naveen

Imagine being trapped in a room for over two weeks, with no idea if you would ever be able to see the outside world again. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? This was what 12 boys, between the ages of 11-18, and their football coach, were made to endure when they were trapped inside the Tham Luang cave in Thailand as heavy rains flooded and cut off their escape route.

It took a herculean effort from the rescue team and the prayers of a million around the world to get the boys out and ever since that day, they have been the cynosure of the world. So, it was no surprise when the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) extend a special invite to the Moo Pa — or Wild Boars — football team for their side Thailand’s opening game at the AFC Asian Cup 2019 in the UAE.

Three boys, Chanin Vibulrungruang aka Taitan, Pornchai Kamluang aka Tee, Adul Sam-on and the assistant coach, Ekapol Chantawong aka Ake of the Wild Boars FC are in Abu Dhabi for the said game on Sunday (January 6) and were provided an exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the Al Nahyan stadium facility and the Thai side’s official training.

Speaking to Sportskeeda on the sidelines of the stadium tour, Vibulrungruang, 11, said that he was honoured to be a part of the Asian Cup and that it had given him more reason to follow his passion in football.

“We are very excited to be here. It’s a great opportunity for us to see our Thai heroes so closely and cheer for them. We thank the AFC and the Thailand football federation for giving us this opportunity to be here today to support our team,” said Vibulrungruang, a Lionel Messi fan and midfielder for his side.

Asked if Thailand would pull out a win over India in the opener, the boys sounded very confident of their side’s chances. “Of course, without a doubt,” they said in unison.

While playing for Thailand has always been a dream of the boys, the trip to the UAE for the Asian Cup seems to have strengthened their resolve to achieve their goal.

“Playing for Thailand has always been our dream. Coming here today and being here today, it’s fuelled the passion we have for the game and we want to be here one day, at the Asian Cup, playing for Thailand,” said Kamluang. Kamluang is a winger for the Wild Boars.

The AFC’s invitation is part of a larger, two-year support programme from the continental body to the Wild Boars, which will see the club receive technical support as well as training equipment for a year.

The boys were invited for the FIFA World Cup final between France and Croatia but could not make it to Moscow as they were still under treatment. The trip to UAE, however, will surely be a memorable one for the boys.

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