As the man who placed his 12 young charges in mortal danger by taking them deep into a mountain cave system, the young coach of the Wild Boars football team could easily have been cast as the villain of one of the greatest rescue stories of recent times.

But on Tuesday, as it was confirmed that all 12 boys had finally been released from the Tham Luang cave system in northern Thailand, 25-year-old Ekapol Chanthawong was being hailed by relatives of the boys as the quiet hero of an adventure that so nearly ended in tragedy.

It is still unclear why the young coach decided to lead his boys some two-and-a-half miles into the forbidden cave system on the cusp of the rainy season, but when the group…

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