Thai youth soccer players rescued from cave meet the media

Ross Houston
July 19, 2018

The Wild Boars had entered the cave on June 23 for what was to be a relaxing excursion after soccer practice.

Twelve Thai boys and their football coach have been discharged from hospital, a week after a daring rescue operation saw them extracted from a cave where they had been stuck for more than two weeks.

Asked what the moment was like when they finally were found in the cave - and they got their first sign of hope, one the boys, Adun Sam-on, told the media that they heard a noise, but, he added, "We were not sure if it was a hallucination".

One of his pupils had a tutor class to get to later that evening. But the kids were keen to have an adventure.

The group's youngest member, 11-year-old Chanin Viboonrungruang, also known as Titan, said it would make him more patient. "It would be wet, it would be cold".

The coach said the trip was meant to last one hour, simply because "each of us wanted to see what was inside".

They wore shirts with an image of a wild boar.

They kept themselves entertained by playing checkers with the Thai Navy SEALS who stayed with them, and developed a "close" relationship with them.

The Thai soccer team who were trapped inside a cave made a decision to allow the boys that live furthest away to be rescued first.

The boys sat alongside members of the Thai Navy Seals who helped rescue them. "I feel stronger, I have more patience, endurance, tolerance", said 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam. "It was clean and tasted like any drinking water".

All of the boys and coach Ekapol were rescued after surviving up to 17 days inside the cave.

They had little concept of time but the first time they went to sleep they prayed, Ekkapol said. Concerned that they might soon be submerged, he instructed the group to start digging and look for a potential exit.

"We used rocks to dig out the cave wall", said Phanumas Saengdee, 13. "We dug 3 to 4 metres". "So I was wondering how they found us at the right cave".

"And since the water was shallow enough, the team agreed to go ahead until we reached Muang Badan", he said.

Adul became famous as the boy who engaged in a conversation in English with the British divers.

That discovery triggered the rescue effort that brought them all to safety over the course of three days, organised by Thai navy SEALs and a global team of cave-diving experts.

"When he (the diver) emerged from the water I was shocked that he was British", he recalled.

But he said his teammate holding the flashlight was scared, so Adul told him "If you're not going to go, then I'll go". "On the first day we were okay, but after two days we started feeling exhausted", said Pornchai Kamluang, 16, adding that their coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, told them to stay still when possible to preserve energy.

More than 486,000 people are registered as stateless with the Thai government, official data show.

Numerous boys hail from the district of Mae Sai, near the border with Myanmar. The rescue mission was on.

They were no longer lost or alone.

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