What is your name and home field location?
Dai Lai. We do not have a home field. We hold our practices at FDR Park and try to practice at least once a week.
Note: Dai Lai is the coach for Team Thailand.
What is your connection to Thailand?
I was originally born in Burma before I moved to Thailand. I lived there from 1991 to 2008, before coming to the United States.
What made you interested in participating in the Unity Cup?
I played soccer my whole life and as a youth community advisor, I think it is a great way to unite the youth.
How did your team come together?
Most of us live in South Philadelphia and enjoy playing soccer. We have a few players that travel around the country to participate in tournaments. They reached out to me to officially form a team because they were ready to participate and play more games.
Can you tell us a bit about the rest of your team?
We have players in various stages in their lives with an age range from 17 to 30. We have high school students playing alongside young adults currently working in Philadelphia.
What does soccer mean to your community?
Soccer helps open the minds of our youth by promoting physical and social health. When the youth participate in soccer, they stay away from smoking and substance abuse. It gives them discipline and focus. For example, this weekend we will be hosting a graduation party for the high school graduates with our community. This is when the parents will come together to celebrate the youth. They are happy when they see their kids involved in the community.
Why is soccer important to you personally?
I played soccer my whole life, from middle and high school to today, where I play every week. Soccer was important to me in high school because it was a great stress release. Soccer has done so much for my life, which is why I am giving back to the community and coaching the Thailand soccer team, where I get a chance to work with the youth. As a youth community advisor, I find it easier to attract youth to the soccer field for a chat than in my office.
How has soccer made your life better?
Growing up I moved from school to school and was faced with many challenges. I was raised by a single mother. I had an older brother that suffered from depression and got involved with drugs. Through it all, soccer helped me through those times and got me through those challenges. On the soccer field, the game taught me forgiveness, and this can be applied in our lives outside of the soccer field. Forgiveness can’t change the past, but it can enhance our lives in the present.
Why do you think soccer is so popular around the world?
Soccer is so popular around the world because it resolves tension between two countries. Watching the soccer matches, you forget about the wars and conflict. Soccer also bring people (e.g. family, friends) together to watch. And on the soccer field, it teaches the players and teams about teamwork.
How do you think soccer in general (and the Unity Cup in particular) promotes inclusivity?
When I heard about the Unity Cup in Philadelphia, I was so happy and excited. Before the Unity Cup, we probably wouldn’t have stepped out of our community to speak with others. However, just like the World Cup, the Unity Cup brings everyone together and that is when conversations are exchanged.
What places (such as restaurants or cultural centers) or groups in Philadelphia would you recommend to someone if they wanted to learn more about Thai culture?
I would recommend trying the Red Curry and Pad Thai from Golden Triangle at 610 South 5th Street near South Street. I would also suggest AmeriThai on 1244 Snyder Avenue.
What’s one thing you wish more people knew about Thailand?
There are many beautiful places to visit in Thailand. Aside from the capital of Bangkok, I would suggest tourists visit Chang Mai (a must-visit city) – originally the capital of Northern Thailand with a rich history.