‘Playing football in heaven’: tributes pour in after boy rescued in Thai cave dies in UK

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Tributes have been paid to Duangpetch Promthep, one of the 12 boys rescued from a flooded Thai cave in 2018, who died in the UK on Tuesday.

Kiatisuk Senamuang, the founder of the Zico Foundation and a mentor to Duangpetch, known also as Dom, wrote in a message: “Have fun playing football in heaven, be what Dom wanted to be, just go for it, go to watch every match you want to.”

Kiatisuk’s foundation had supported Duangpetch, a talented player, to attend a football academy in the UK. Duangpetch was found unconscious in his dorm by a teacher on Sunday and was taken by ambulance to hospital, where he died on Tuesday.

“I wish you have a safe journey, if you are free, please come to visit me or just come to see me coaching,” Kiatisuk wrote on social media. “Tonight I will remember all the memories we had. I don’t know when I can fall asleep. I will remember all the memories. I love you so much.”

Kiatisuk said during an emotional online press conference on Wednesday night that he wasn’t aware Duangpetch had any health conditions. “Dom was very strong and very fit,” he said. “He ran fast, well and didn’t have any issues with injuries.”

The cause of Duangpetch’s death has not been confirmed, but the BBC reported that Leicestershire police had said the death was not suspicious.

It is not clear when a funeral ceremony will be held. During Wednesday night’s press conference, Duangpetch’s mother asked how he would be returned, so that his body or ashes could be repatriated and his soul brought home.

Duangpetch was the captain of the Wild Boars football team whose 12 members, aged 11 to 16 at the time, became trapped in a Thai cave along with their 25-year-old coach in 2018. They had adventured into the cave as a fun excursion, but flash floods filled the tunnels, cutting off their exit.

For more than two weeks they were trapped inside the dark cave complex, while billions of people around the world watched a rescue effort by international divers and Thai Navy Seals bring them to safety. One rescuer died during the mission, and a second rescuer died later from a blood infection.

Ekkaphol Kanthawong, the coach who was trapped alongside Duangpetch in 2018, wrote on Facebook that he had been waiting all day for a miracle, hoping the news of Duangpethc’s death was not true.

“Didn’t you ask me to cheer you once you’re in the national league? Why did you break the promise? Didn’t we make all the plans when you come back to play football and go cycling with us?

“Since you were young, you kept saying that you wanted to play in the national league. Why didn’t you do as you said?” Ekkaphol wrote.

“Rest in peace my little brother, if the next life exists, we will see each other again, Dom.”

Images of Duangpetch, including a photo taken during the 2018 rescue, showing him smiling and wrapped in a foil blanket, appeared on the front of Thai newspapers on Thursday and on TV news.

The British ambassador to Thailand said in a statement that he was saddened to hear of Duangpetch’s death. “My condolences to all his family and friends.”

The Royal Thai embassy in London also conveyed its “deepest sympathies” for the loss of Duangpetch, saying: “Our heartfelt condolences to Dom’s family for the passing of their loved one.”

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( With inputs from : www.theguardian.com )

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