The Wild Boars Football Academy, whose brave rescue from a flooded cave in Thailand inspired the world, continued their remarkable fairy-tale after three players and their assistant coach were presented with a rare opportunity to witness their Thai heroes open their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 campaign against India on Sunday.
Despite Thailand’s loss to India, it was a once in a lifetime experience for the boys.
AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who presented Chanin Viboonrungruang, Adul Samon and Ponchai Khamluang along with assistant coach Ekapol Chanthawong with UAE 2019 mementos during the match, said: “The AFC is very pleased to welcome the players from Wild Boars Academy to the AFC Asian Cup.”
“Their journey here reinforces the power of football to inspire hope and their presence in the UAE is another fine example of how Asia’s most prestigious tournament is making dreams come true for millions of fans across the Continent.”
Speaking on behalf of his team who was understandably thrilled by the occasion, Coach Ekapol said: “To see our heroes ‘live’ in the biggest competition in Asia is something we will never forget. This is the first time we have come this close to the players and this is also the first time that we are watching a Thai match away from home.”
“We are very grateful to the AFC for this experience and to be able to support our role models in the most important tournament in Asia is a great feeling,” added Ekapol.
When asked to pick a favourite from the War Elephants’ 23-strong squad, the quartet were unanimous in singling out Chanathip Songkrasin as their role model and were presented with a dream come true moment when they met with the Consadole Sapporo star during the War Elephants’ final training session prior to Sunday’s match.