Rescued soccer kids pray for safety while visiting Buddhist temple

Clay Curtis
July 20, 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.

"When they came out of the water, I was surprised.

Once we heard their noise, we went down (near the water) and they greeted us, 'Hello, is anyone there?'" Adul Sam-on recalled.

"Chanthawong told them to "'quickly get down there, that's the sound of a person, or else they're going to pass on by, ' something like that". It was at that moment that they realized it was real people. Relieved, the diver simply said "Brilliant". But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.

With the entrance flooded and no immediate way out, the group retreated back into the cave to find somewhere to rest. He said, "I was afraid". For almost 10 days, they survived on water dripping from stalactites in the cave.

In fact, most of the boys acknowledged that they didn't inform their parents about the cave exploration trip and that they truly regretted their actions.

According to the boys' 25-year-old coach, Ekapol Chanthawong, it was the entire team, under the guidance of worldwide divers and the Thai Navy SEALS, who decided which boys to rescue from the cave first.

"We'll do whatever he wants", Konkum said.

Several of the boys also apologised to their parents for sneaking off to the caves after claiming they were only playing football.

The boys will eventually spend time as novice Buddhist monks to honour the dead diver's memory, their coach said. "I didn't tell them I went to Tham Luang".

"I felt weak and very hungry", said the youngest boy, 11-year-old Chanin Vibulrungruang.

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Authorities said that more than 100 questions were sent in from members of the media, though only a handful were selected.

The football boys and their coach have attended a Buddhist ceremony at a temple to protect them against misfortunes, a day after they were discharged from a hospital following their rescue from a flooded cave.

"According to the world's leading experts on cave diving, the nature of this mission and its challenges made it one of the toughest cave rescue operations not only in Thailand but in the entire world", said the department's deputy director-general Kobchai Boonyaorana.

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

Nine days passed before the boys were found by two British rescue divers.

But a happy ending was far from assured.

"After they came out of the water, I was really surprised that they (divers) were from the United Kingdom and I didn't know what to say".

As the boys looked forward to returning to their homes, justice ministry official Tawatchai Thaikaew asked for their privacy to be respected. They stayed alive by drinking the cave water.

While numerous boys wanted to be pro soccer players when they grow up, at least four of them said they hope to become navy SEALs, so they could help others.

Prior to the arrival of rescue divers, the team subsisted on water dripping from stalactites in the cave, coach Ekkapol Chantawong told reporters.

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