What happened next to the Thai cave rescue boys?

time:2023-05-31 02:55:59 source:The New York Times

In June 2018, the story of Duangpetch Promthep and 11 other young Thai footballers gripped the world.

For more than two weeks, the team's fate hung in the balance, as a diving team assembled from around the world sought to rescue the Wild Boars team from the Tham Luang cave.

As the world watched, the boys and their coach were removed from the cave one by one while sedated with the drug ketamine.

But for the boys - who were aged between 11 and 16 - their escape marked the beginning of a new challenge: dealing with the fascination of the world's media.

Having followed their ordeal for almost three weeks, global news organisations sought every detail of the team's experience.

In 2019, the players agreed to a six-part Netflix documentary series after the Thai government struck a deal which reportedly saw each child's family paid $94,000 (£72,000). The show came out last year.

Separately, Thirteen Lives - a Ron Howard film, starring Colin Farrell - was also released in 2022.

Last year, Chanin "Titan" Wibunrungrueang - the youngest of the boys - told the BBC he had found the post-rescue attention challenging.

"At first it was very difficult, I had to to adjust myself," he said. "A lot of people knew about me and I didn't know how to act... I felt tense when I was in front of the camera or being interviewed."

Four years later, Titan still plays football with an academy run by Ekkapol Chantawong - the coach trapped with the boys.

Mr Chantawong was just 25 at the time. A former monk, he helped the boys keep calm and minimise the air they consumed by teaching them meditation tricks.

At the time of the rescue, Mr Chantawong and three of his players - including Monkol Boonpiam, the last boy rescued from the cave - were stateless, despite being born in Thailand.

But they were granted full Thai citizenship in the months that followed.

After escaping from the cave, Mr Chantawong set up his football academy to help young Thai children reach their potential.

"I'm really proud because some of the kids get to their goals," he told the BBC in July. "Some of them want to be professional footballers and play at the highest level."

But he added that for others, he was there to provide an outlet while they "study and complete their education".

One of the Wild Boars, and another of those who were stateless, was Adul Sam-On.

The only member of the group who could speak English, Adul greeted the international diving team when they breached the cave, and relayed their instructions to his teammates.

Last year, the New York Times reported that Adul - who can speak five languages - was studying in New York on a full scholarship.

His great-uncle and guardian, Go Shin Maung, told the paper his nephew wanted to work for the UN.

"The boys are going their own ways," Mr Go told the paper. "Some will pursue their studies and some are following football. They still chat and message with each other, sharing their experiences."

According to his Instagram, Phonchai Khamluang - one of Adul's teammates - played professional football with Thai third division side Chiangrai Lanna.

And several other boys are still involved in the sport at various levels. As was Duangpetch Promthep, who was found dead in Leicestershire on Wednesday.

Aged just 12 when he got trapped, "Dom" was the team's standout star and captain.

Last August, his talent was recognised then he won a scholarship to join the Brooke House College Football Academy.

The outfit boasts a star-studded alumni, including Jesse Sekidika - who went on to play for Turkish giants Galatasaray - and Kelvin John of Belgian side Genk.

"Today my dream has come true," Dom wrote on Instagram when his scholarship was announced.

His talent - and popularity - were highlighted in the tributes from former teammates.

"You told me to wait and see you play for the national team," wrote Prachak Sutham, who had been trapped in the cave with Promthep. "I always believed you would do it."

While Wednesday's tragedy has brought renewed attention to the Wild Boars, they are unlikely to give a wide range of new interviews.

"They have no hang-ups about what happened," Vern Unsworth - a cave explorer who helped recruit the rescue team - told the New York Times last year.

"They haven't put themselves on a pedestal. They have remained very low key. They have just tried to get on with life as best they can."

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