July 14, 2018 00:38:37
The head of the monastery where the coach of the Wild Boars soccer team trained as a monk says he believes the players would surely have died if it was not for Ekkapol “Ek” Chantawong.
- Buddhist leader praises coach’s ability to keep boys calm
- Coach had meditation training and is devoted to team
- SEAL leader encourages rescued boys to use their story to inspire others
Prayuth Jetiyanukarn, the abbot of the Prathat Doi Wao temple on the Thai-Myanmar border, credits the 25-year-old with keeping the 12 boys calm for nine days using his training as a novice monk.
Abbot Prayuth said he believed Mr Chantawong taught the boys techniques for staying calm that helped them survive for nine days without food, cramped on a dark, muddy ledge, unsure if, or when, anyone would save them.
“How did he do it? It was such a long period of time — nine days. What did he say?” Abbot Prayuth said.
“The children would have been crying, crying for their parents and homes.
“Even crying can physically exhaust you and make you dehydrated.
“They might be healthy and strong but they’re only children. They’re only young, they lack experience.
“We probably would not have found them alive without Ek.”
The young coach effectively lives at the temple, not far from the cave, when he is not staying with his grandmother across the border.
He mostly works as a cleaner but previously trained as a monk and still helps people to meditate so they can focus on what is important in life.
Abbot Prayuth described Mr Chantawong as a man with a strong sense of responsibility, who spends much of his life doing and giving to others.
He does not drink, smoke or go to karaoke bars like other young men his age.
Instead he has devoted much of his spare time to training the young soccer players both physically and mentally.
“Even the parents of the kids love him,” Abbot Prayuth said.
“After soccer practice coach Ek would personally take them home, and he would do that until he finished, then come back to the temple.”
Mr Chantawong was found in a weaker condition than most of the boys because he had given up his ration of the small amount of food the group had taken into the cave.
The coach and 12 boys are being held in a quarantine ward in hospital for a week until blood test results come back to show whether they have caught any dangerous infections or diseases.
The Buddhist leader said he planned to visit Mr Chantawong in hospital later on Friday.
Thai SEALs receive a hero’s welcome
Abbot Prayuth’s comments came as a group of Thai Navy SEALs received a hero’s welcome on their return to the nation’s capital.
The SEALs touched down near Bangkok after joining foreign divers, including Australians, in a mission to rescue the group from inside a cave complex in Chiang Rai.
The 18-day ordeal claimed the life of an experienced former Thai Navy SEAL diver.
Those involved in the rescue were given large garlands made from marigolds as Navy officers and proud civilians stood by.
Some well-wishers brought red roses for the team.
“I would like to tell the kids to live their lives worthily and make their lives useful for the country,” Rear Admiral Arpakorn Yookongkaew, who led the Thai Navy SEAL diving team in the ordeal, said after touching down at the air base.
“Their adventurous story can inspire the younger generations.”
Health officials say the boys will spend at least a week in hospital and about 30 days recovering at home following more than two weeks trapped inside the flooded cave complex.
July 13, 2018 12:02:12