WATCH: How did Thai coach help his young players during the cave ordeal

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A Thai soccer team coach's composure may have been what helped keep a team of 12 young soccer players from panicking before they were rescued in July, according to an ABC news exclusive with the team.

Ekkapol Chantawong, or Ek as he is known, told ABC's James Longman in Chiang Rai that he didn't want the young boys to get scared as the water rose.

“From the beginning that I knew that we (were) stuck in the cave, I firstly tried to regain my composure. I only told them something positive. I told the boys that we just had to wait for a bit longer, then the water may go down and we could get out. If I told them that we got stuck in the cave, the boys would get panicked”

Chantawong, a sports enthusiast, hopes to become a Thai citizen, friends and relatives said.

He is a member of the Tai Lue minority, one of several groups whose people have, over generations, moved around the region, across open borders in remote hills between southern China, Myanmar and Laos, and into northern Thailand's ethnic patchwork of communities.

Many such people do not have Thai citizenship papers and are officially stateless. Ek and three of the rescued boys from the soccer team are stateless.

Many Thais on social media say the boys and their coach should be given citizenship following their ordeal.

Some people have wondered whether Ek's background as a Buddhist monk had helped him stay calm, and help the children, during their ordeal in the flooded Tham Luang cave.

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