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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 June, 2004, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Jumbo footballers take on Thais
Human goalkeeper sprawls helplessly as the elephant knocks the ball in
Top trunk control leads to belter of a goal
Huge footballing talents are on show at the Euro 2004 championship, but in Thailand the star players are just huge - jumbo-sized, in fact.

Ten elephants took on a Thai prison team on Sunday in a game that officials hoped would show playing football is more fun than gambling on it.

Inmates are among many Thais betting illegally on the matches in Portugal.

The humans opened the scoring, but the special oversized ball meant the elephants more than held their own.

Football fever

Amid the mud, the result was unclear: either a 5-5 draw or a creditable 7-6 win for the elephants.

The elephants had the flags of the European countries taking part in the 2004 tournament in Portugal painted on their sides. Prisoners wore face paint.

"We want to show and want to get support from all the people that you can get fun from playing football without gambling," said Nathee Chitsawang, head of Thailand's corrections department.

Elephants block the goalmouth
Now that is what you call a solid defence
Thai authorities have been trying to crack down on illegal gambling in prisons and across the country, amid the huge interest in Euro 2004.

Thousands of Thais have been crossing into Cambodia, where gambling is legal, to have a flutter on their favourite teams.

The human-elephant clash at Ayutthaya football ground attracted some 200 supporters.

The prisoners showed nimble footwork to get past the elephantine defence and open the scoring.

But the pachyderm players, whose defensive options included just blocking the goal with their bulk, were able to mount counter-attacks, directed by their riders.

The inmates struggled to kick the special 8-kg ball in the wet and slippery conditions, while the elephants just picked it up with their trunks.

The elephant's top scorer, Kocharaa, who wore the Danish flag, celebrated by kicking his front legs in the air and was rewarded with freshly-cut sugar cane from his trainer.




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