‘It was so magnificent’: Thai boys speak of emotional rescue

Clay Curtis
July 19, 2018

During their first public appearance since being saved, the boys, who are part of the football team Wild Boars, joined the Seals to have a kick about.

The kids, members of the Wild Boars football club, appeared in front of the public in their team shirts. The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued after being trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand are recovering well and are eager to eat their favorite comfort foods after their expected discharge from a hospital next week.

The dramatic mission to save the group captured the world's attention, with heads of state, celebrities and even soccer stars at the World Cup in Russian Federation sending good wishes and messages of hope to the boys and the team of divers and rescue experts.

One of the boys said he was "shocked" when one of the divers who came to rescue them was British.

Croatian FA president Davor Suker made the decision today to send the boys all a Croatian World Cup playing shirt.

The boys were greeted by cheers and applause as they arrived at Chiang Rai's provincial hall after being discharged from hospital on Wednesday.

"We weren't sure if it was for real", 14-year-old Adul said.

Diver Jason Mallinson was unsure if the boys were going to make it due to the adverse conditions they were facing.

"The media know the children are in a hard situation, they have overcome peril and if you ask risky questions then it could break the law", he told reporters.Some Thai television personalities joked that the boys' appearance would boost ratings for an otherwise tiresome show that usually features discussions of the military government's performance.

But the moment was bittersweet, as two of the boys held up a framed pencil sketch of Samarn Kunan, 38, the former Thai navy diver who died while he worked underwater, laying oxygen tanks along a potential exit route.

They have been staying in hospital for observation for more than a week.

Thai cave boys leave hospital for first public appearance since rescue

"I feel stronger, I have more patience, endurance, tolerance", said 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam.

But after the flash floods, the boys and their coach ran deep inside the cave, where they became trapped.

During their TV news conference the boys said when they entered the cave on June 23 they had planned to only be inside the cave for about an hour after soccer practice.

They found a muddy area on top of a rock where they chose to spend the night, the boys said, explaining they prayed before going to sleep.

In a gesture of gratitude, the boys will ordain as Buddhist monks in honour of Mr Saman, the coach said.

Kunan was the sole fatality during the rescue, which involved more than a thousand people and lasted over two weeks.

"At the time we were not scared, because we thought the water would go down and someone would rescue us", he said.

"Be calm, be cool", one of the boys recalled telling his coach, asking him to slow down.

After realising they were trapped, one of the boys admitted: 'I was really afraid I would not be able to return home'.

The news conference was the first opportunity the members of the team had to speak directly to the media, though video of them in the hospital was released previously. They also apologized to their families for causing so much distress.

After nine days without food, they were found emaciated and huddled in a group on a muddy ledge by British divers several kilometres inside Tham Luang.

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