A large crowd braved the rain on Wednesday to give food offerings in the first alms-collecting round by the 11 “Wild Boar” footballers, who are now Buddhist novices, and their coach Ekkapol Chantawong, who became a monk, at Wat Phra That Doi Tung in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district.
Many also grabbed pouches full of donated coins that the 12 newly ordained novices had thrown to the crowd for merit-making as they believed the coins were auspicious souvenirs that can provide longevity and protection from harm, like the boys trapped in the flooded cave.
Ekkapol received a monastic name “Wisarntho” (the wise and brave one), because of his role in helping the boys survive the Tham Luang cave ordeal, from his preceptor Phra Buddhiwongwiwat, Mae Sai’s district chief monk.
While the 11 novices would practise dhamma and stay in Wat Phra That Doi Wao for nine days until August 4, Phra Wisarntho will complete the three-month “pansa” rain retreat.
Saman’s widow, Valeepoan Kunan, and army doctor Pak Loharnchun, who joined the footballers in the cave after they were discovered by British divers on July 2 and remained with them until they were all rescued on July 10, also attended the ceremony, which was presided over by the new Chiang Rai governor, Prajon Pratsakul.
The saga of the “Wild Boars” transfixed the world as Thai and international divers worked in a dramatic mission to get them out of the cave where they were trapped since June 23 and survived on rainwater dripping from rocks. They were brought out safely in three batches on July 8-10.
After recuperating in hospital for a week, they were sent home with no apparent health problems.