Coach Pao: A Modern-Day Paul
Gayle Silkwood of GNPI-Chiang Mai, Thailand
The Thai media team was surprised they were actually admitted into the Chiang Mai Prison even after all the paperwork and letters had been approved. Other organizations, like CBN, who requested permission to interview this particular prisoner were declined. Coach Pao had been an inmate for the past three years, and his story of conversion and obedience was worth all the red-tape!
Coach Pao has been an avid soccer player all his life and knew many high-profile people in the sports industry. He admits he was self-confident and stubborn, which is what got him into trouble. Money and drugs led him down the wrong path.
In 2003, he was arrested and then released on bail to await his trial. During this time something happened that changed his life forever. He met Jesus Christ. As a new Christian, he became convinced he could help young teens learn discipline and life skills through playing soccer that could also potentially save them from a life of drugs. He established the Christ Football Club (CFC) for underprivileged teens. Ten years passed before his trial for the crime from his previous life. After being sentenced to prison, he saw an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of his fellow inmates. He coached a soccer league, preached at church services, and encouraged others who were also incarcerated.
As for the CFC, another pastor picked up Coach Pao’s work with the young teens continuing to teach them on the soccer field and influence them for Christ.
Recently, after our team had visited him in prison, Coach Pao was granted pardon on the King’s birthday (an annual Thai tradition for well-behaved prisoners). Whether inside the prison walls or outside in the world, Coach Pao knows his calling is to follow Jesus and change lives.