BANGKOK, Thailand There were mixed emotions at the Tham Luang cave complex last night as Coach Ekk, the coach of the "Mu Pa" (Wild Boar) football team finally emerged from the cave after being trapped for 17 days.
The 25-year-old whose real name is Ekapol Chantawong is not only the football coach for the boys, but has also become their closest confidant and protector while they struggled to keep alive in the dangerous cave throughout the more than two weeks' ordeal.
Being the last to emerge safely from the cave yesterday, Coach Ekk, who lost both his parents when he was a young child and lived with his aunt, made good on his promise to the boys' families that he would take care of their sons during their dangerous rendezvous inside the underground cave.
I promise I will care for the kids as best as possible. I want to say thank you for all the support, he wrote in a touching letter, nine days after they were found sitting atop a ledge known as Nerm Nom Sao inside the Tham Luang cave by British divers.
The letter, along with other letters from the cave, which were written by the boys aged between 11 and 15, were delivered to their parents by divers from the Royal Thai Navy SEALs.
In his letter, Coach Ekk, who was once a Buddhist monk before becoming a football coach, also apologised to the boys' parents, probably due to a sense of responsibility for putting the young boys in harm with an unplanned trip to the sprawling and flooded cave.
According to media reports, he took the boys to the cave after a football practice, unaware of the heavy rain which had flooded parts of the cave.
Despite his apology, the boys' parents and majority of the Thai society refused to pin the blame on the coach for their boys' predicament.
Instead, they described him as the real hero in making sure that the "Wild Boars" would emerge alive from the cave.
The coach reportedly taught his young players to meditate as a way to keep them calm during their long stay in the cave.
I know he's a good person. In the cave it looks like he's losing morale. He's probably afraid that we (parents) would blame him, Kum-aey Promthep, a grandmother to one of trapped boys told a local media.
Other family members of the boys also supported Kum-aey views on the coach.
Meanwhile, deputy director of the justice ministry Thawatchai Thaikieaw was quoted by the local media as saying that he was afraid the coach would fall into depression upon exiting the cave.
I'm afraid he will misconstrue things and think of himself as the only source of blame. This could lead to depression and self-harm, he said.
A local police officer in Mae Sai Police Station, which has jurisdiction on Tham Luang cave, was reportedly deliberating whether to level charges against the coach for leading the "Wild Boars" into the cave.
I decline to answer this issue for now. We have to study the matter carefully first, said its chief, Col Komsan Saard-an.
Source: NAM News Network