Talented and resilient: the Wild Boars footballers trapped in Thai cave

Boys trapped underground include Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, 11, the youngest in the squad, and left-winger Adul Sam-on, 14, whose English skills have earned him admiration at home

When, on Monday, members of the Wild Boars football club spotted a light emerging from the watery depths that had confined them to a pitch-black chamber in Tham Luang cave in Thailand’s Mae Sai district for nine days, they had no notion it was being carried by two British humen. Unaware of the headlines and sympathy their plight had inspired around the world, the 12 boys and their coach-and-four assumed the divers were explorers.

Adul Sam-on , 14, called out in English to ask the divers what day it was and tell them that he and his friends were hungry. His teammates, unable to follow the conversation, chattered” eat, eat, feed” with the little English they had. Adul assured his friends:” I already told them .”

Driven by the revelation that the boys are alive and that a rescue is likely, Thai athletics outlets have been working to piece together the dynamics and personalities of the team.

In goal

Ekkarat Wongsookchan, Prajak Sutham and Pipat Bodhi. Photo: Thai Rath

The squad’s goalkeeper is Ekkarat Wongsookchan , 14, who goes by the nickname Bew. Bew has reportedly improved his game over the past few years as a result of his disciplined personality. At the end of each training session, he steps up to collect the team’s equipment. In the cave with Bew is his close friend Pipat Bodhi , 15, whose nickname is Nick. Nick is not a member of the Wild Boars; he had joined the team’s practice match on 23 June to spend time with Bew.

Prajak Sutham , 14, known as Note, occasionally plays in objective when he is not in midfield. He has been playing football for two years.

The defenders

Panumas Saengdee and Pornchai Kamluang. Photograph: Thai Rath

In defence are Pornchai Kamluang , 16, known as Tee, and Panumas Saengdee , 13, nicknamed Mick. Mick has been described as an ideal defender because of his fitness and fluid movement. However, his coaches have recently considered playing him as a striker because he is strong in the air and skilful with his head. He is said to play as well as a 15 -year-old.

The midfielders

Sompong Jaiwong, Adul Sam-on and Peerapat Sompiangjai. Photograph: Thai Rath

Adul Sam-on , the boy who spoke to the divers, plays on the left wing. His English skills have won him the appreciation of millions in Thailand, where fewer than 30% of the population speak the language. According to local news outlets, his knowledge of English comes from his involvement in church activities. He also speaks Thai, Mandarin, and Burmese, which he learned living simply over the border in Shan state, Myanmar. Like many students in Thailand’s Mae Sai district, he commutes over the border every day.

Also in the cave are two right-wingers: Peerapat Sompiangjai , 16, known as Night, and Sompong Jaiwong , 13, or Pong.

The forwards

Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, Duangpetch Promthep and Nattawut Takamsai. Photo: Thai Rath

Duangpetch Promthep , 13, known as Dom, is a forward and team captain. His teammates on the U16 squad say he has the qualities of a leader and a good sense of humour. Dom has been invited to trials by a number of leading provincial teams, including Sukhothai FC and Chiangrai United FC.

Playing alongside Dom is Chanin Wiboonrungrueng , 11, or Titan. Titan is the youngest Wild Boars player. He has been playing football for five years. When he joined his school’s athletics club three years ago, he was invited to play for the Wild Boars.

The third striker in the cave is Nattawut Takamsai , 14, known as Tle.

The trainee

Mongkol Boonpiam.

Mongkol Boonpiam , 14, known as Mark, is a trainee. Thailand’s athletics daily Siamsport reported that Mark has been playing football since he was in kindergarten and loves the athletic so much that he almost always wears a football shirt. His favourite squad is Muangthong United, the leading squad in the Thai Premier League. He also enjoys swimming and cycling. His mom, Namhom Boonpiam, told Siamsport:” I believe he will survive .”

The coach

Ekaphol Chantawong.

Assistant coach-and-four Ekaphol Chantawong , 25, took his squad into the cave on 23 June. He was once consecrated as a Buddhist monk, and since leaving the monkhood has spent much of his time caring for his grandmother. Thai news outlets have reported that the authorities have not ruled out charging him with a crime, but Thai government spokesman Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak told the Guardian that” no one is talking about that “.

Werachon said the coach’s presence had been a convenience to the boys:” The coach is advising them that they need to lie down, of course[ try] meditation, try not to move their bodies too much, try not to waste their energy. And of course, by meditation, they remain conscious all the time, so their intellect will not be wandering around .”

Wild Boars FC, known in Thai as Moo Pa, was established three years ago as a small, regional club to become involved in provincial tournaments. It has under-1 3, under-1 6 and under-1 9 squads, and since members of each squad are trapped in the cave, the entire club has had to sit out of competitive matches.

Most of the players are from ethnic minorities and underprivileged communities, and many join “where theyre” eight or nine years old.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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