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By Ihab Shaarawy

A recent Muay Thai event that was organised by Thailand’s Embassy in Egypt brought the glitz of the popular sport to Cairo, as well as a Thai tradition that was hundreds of years old.

"For us Muay Thai is a cultural heritage that we want to share with the world.  And today the sport is becoming popular in many countries,” Chainarong Keratiyutwong, the Thai ambassador to Cairo, told The Egyptian Mail.

Muay Thai is a sport that is known for using the whole body as a weapon and a shield. The fierce fighting style is thought to have been used by soldiers and by locals to protect their land.  It was an important survival tool in ancient Thailand.

Keratiyutwong explained that Muay Thai was not just a sport for Thai people but was part of their culture and a very useful fitness practice. "It's part of school activities and a very popular game that brings fame and fortune to top players."

He confirmed his country's keenness on spreading the sport around the world and said that Thailand had submitted a request to the Olympic Committee for the sport to be part of the next Olympic Games.

He said he was happy to see that more and more people around the world were becoming interested in the sport and thousands had taken it up.  "Today, most of the top players are not Thai,” said the envoy who was pleased that the sport was gaining popularity in Egypt, with nearly 2000 people playing the game.

"But what is even more astonishing for me is the growing number of young Egyptian ladies who are taking up the game," said the envoy who refuted the misconception that the game was brutally violent.

Keratiyutwong, who like most Thai people practised the sport in his youth, said that Muay Thai was not more violent than any other combat sport, but some people were mixing it up with other games such as kick-boxing. However, Muay Thai was different since it had rules and tools that protect the players.

Keratiyutwong went on to say that Muay Thai had an astonishing effect on the character of the players, who became very peaceful members of society.

Marwa Ahmed, who has been practising the game for a while, agreed with Keratiyutwong. "It gives me self-confidence, so I don’t think of fighting with anyone unless I find myself in a defensive position."

Ahmed said that Muay Thai was the real combat sport she had always been looking for."It's not about show, it’s about real fighting.”

Sarah Walid agreed with Ahmed and said that she had to use some of the sport’s techniques in real life situations.

"Muay Thai's sportsmanship is unparalleled when compared to other mainstream combat sports. It’s also the most relevant to real life situations," said Nour Mamdouh who took up the sport after several years of training in other combat games.

The ladies admit that they now want to travel to Thailand to have a real Muay Thai experience.

BANGKOK, June 25, 2018 (News Wires) — Multiple attempts to locate 12 boys and their soccer coach missing in a flooded cave complex in northern Thailand for nearly two days have failed, but officials said on Monday they believe they're still alive.

The boys, aged 11-15, are believed to have entered the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai province with their coach late Saturday afternoon. A mother reported that her son never returned from soccer practice that day, setting off the search.

"We are still searching right now," Chote Narin, an officer at Mae Sai district police station, said Monday afternoon. "We've found traces but no people yet."

He said footprints and handprints were found inside the cave complex and officials believe the boys are still alive. He said the fact that they're athletes should help them endure the situation.

Navy SEAL divers were trying to reach a large chamber deep inside the cave complex where officials thought the students might be. The chamber is about 4 kilometres from the entrance of the cave, which is thought to be about 6-8 kilometres long.

Kamolchai Kotcha, an official at the forest park where the cave is located, said on Monday morning that attempts to reach the chamber had failed as the passage is extremely small, "flooded and covered with sand and mud."

"Right now, our family is hoping that the children trapped inside will have formed a group and are safe and waiting for officials to go in and save them in time. That's what I'm hoping," Noppadol Kantawong, the father of one of the missing boys, told Thai PBS on Sunday.

Footage on Thai television showed bicycles, backpacks and soccer cleats left outside the entrance to the cave. The area was filled with soldiers and rescue personnel.

The cave is a tourist attraction but can flood severely during Thailand's rainy season, which runs from June to October.

According to Kamolchai, tourists trapped in the cave by past floods have been rescued after the water receded a few days later.