Posted by: maboulette | July 10, 2018

Thai Town Rallies Behind Ake Coach Who Took Boys Into Cave


He was likely the first one into the cave and on Tuesday was the last one pulled out.

Ekkapol Ake Chantawong, the 25-year-old coach of the Wild Boars soccer team, has been criticized by some for what is perceived to be an act of supreme recklessness.

Why did he, the adult tasked with taking care of 12 young children, decide to lead the group into a dangerous, forbidden network of underground tunnels, known to flood at this time of year?


 To those who know the former monk and community worker, the willingness of others to judge from afar has led to a characterization they say is unfair and inaccurate.


 Though Kantawong is Ake’s cousin, she says she thinks of him more as a young nephew, owing to the age gap between the two family members. She refers to herself as his aunt.

From inside her modest home in Mae Sai, Kantawong recounts Ake’s traumatic childhood and the death of his parents.

“His mother died while he was still very, very young and his father passed away when he was just 10,” she says. His brother, his only sibling, also died very young, says Kantawong, showing us an old family picture of Ake with his parents and brother.


Kantawong rejects the idea that he would knowingly do anything that might harm the children. “He is very good person, loves kids, takes care of kids, he is very diligent, and always volunteers himself to help others,” she says. “The language he speaks is very polite. For him whoever will like him how the way he is.”


The teams training facility sits in the shadow of the mountains where the caves are located. Typically, the junior team will finish practicing before the senior team take to the pitch. Lahuna was among the players who were still training on Saturday, June 23, as anxious parents began to call the head coach to ask if he knew where their children were.

“When we first heard they were missing at the caves, I and around 10 other senior members of the team rushed into the mountains to look for them. We were the first people there,” says Lahuna.

 “We waited at the cave entrance for them until 4 a.m. the next day.”

Pannawit Jongkham, the coach of the senior team, who joined the search later that same evening, says everyone associated with the Wild Boars is behind coach Ake, as they have been since the first day of the rescue.

“When he is out, everything will be the same, we will support him, nothing will change,” says Jongkham.


 At a Buddhist temple behind the house of Ake’s aunt, on the edges of Thailand’s northern border with Myanmar, community members are hopeful he will be back riding his bike across town and taking the kids out into the countryside.


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