The Football Team Performed Buddhist Rites to honor Saman Kunan

The Thai soccer team that was trapped in a cave for 17 days in 2018 performed Buddhist rites in memory of the hero navy diver who lost his life in the dramatic rescue effort that captivated the world.

A year after their trauma, the 12-member team, dressed in yellow T-shirts and led by their coach, presented alms to monks in memory of Sergeant Saman Kunan, who died while working underwater.

“I want to thank Sergeant Sam,” Ekkapol Chantawong, an assistant coach for the Wild Boars soccer team, told news reporters as the group laid flowers in front of a photo of the diver, which was arranged behind a row of shaven-headed monks dressed in orange robes.

“I and the boys would not be standing here if it weren’t for him.”

The team performed Buddhist rites in honor of Saman

On June 23, 2018, a rainy season rainfall flooded the passages of a cave complex they were investigating in the northern region of Chiang Rai, trapping the team, aged 11 to 16, and their coach.

As experts from all around the world volunteered to assist, the race to save them drew worldwide attention.

After entering the cave on the night of July 5 to deploy oxygen tanks along a potential exit route, Saman Kunan, a former member of an elite Thai Navy SEAL team, perished.

Waleeporn Kunan, Saman’s wife, said the boys always showed thanks to her when they ran into each other in the district where they all live.

“Every time they saw me, they’d run over just like they did after they were rescued,” she explained.

As their rescue unfolded during the World Cup, the youngsters got soccer shirts and offers of tours and match tickets.

The saga’s popularity hasn’t waned even a year later.

Saman’s wife was heartbroken

Netflix said in April that it had struck an agreement to film a miniseries about the rescue, directed by Jon M. Chu of “Crazy Rich Asians” and Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriy.

Two books on the rescue have been published, and “The Cave,” a feature film directed by British-Thai director Tom Waller, wrapped filming in December, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The lads, who are revered in Thailand as national treasures, declined to be interviewed and instead directed inquiries to their soccer coach.

“Life is the same, but more people are aware of me today,” said Ekkapol, who created a new socker team, the Ekkapol Academy soccer team for underprivileged and stateless youngsters.

The team of boys

After the rescue, Ekkapol, a member of a Myanmar minority tribe, was granted Thai citizenship, as were several of the other rescued boys who were also stateless.

“The football squad is to provide a place for the boys, particularly the border lads, to play football.” He stated, “To have their own field and a greater future.”

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