Tears and hugs as Thai football team meets media, farewells hospital staff

Nellie Chapman
July 19, 2018

Some of the rescued team members bowing their heads respectfully in front of a sketch of the former Thai Navy Seal diver who died while trying to rescue them. An worldwide team of rescuers using diving equipment and pulleys extracted the 12 boys, who range in age from 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach through the tight, flooded passageways over three days, concluding July 10.

The boys and the coach got trapped when sudden rain blocked their exit from Tham Luang cave, where they had planned to spend only an hour.

The boys, aged 11 to 16, said they played draughts to pass the time and a game called "king of the cave".

"I have to praise the coach who took care of the footballers very well", Lertvirairatanapong said.

So far Operation Thai Cave Rescue will be on Discovery Channel on Wednesday evening in South Africa, with no confirmation yet on whether it would also be on Discovery Science (320).

A government official asked the boys' privacy to be respected as they returned home after the event. Another said: "This experience taught me to be more patient and strong".

Adul became famous during the ordeal as he was the only member of the team who could speak fluent English and became the main point of contact for British divers involved in the rescue mission.

The boys looked to be in good health as they approached the news conference, smiling as they walked and wearing matching green and white jerseys bearing a wild boar - the team mascot of their academy.

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The briefing was tightly controlled, with experts warning of possible long-term distress from the more than two weeks they spent trapped inside a cramped, flooded chamber of the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand. However, since Adul was busy conversing with the divers he could not translate so one of the boys told the coach to be patient.

"We tried to dig out as we thought we can not only wait for authorities to get us", he said. Following Wednesday's news conference, about 30 relatives gathered at 13-year-old Duangpetch Promthep's house to welcome him home, clapping their hands and cheering.

On Wednesday, the team was discharged from hospital nearly a week after their three-day rescue.

During the first 10 days, there was one particularly worrying moment that caused the group to shift course.

"I stopped thinking about food because it would make me even hungrier", the youngest one said.

Towards the end of their introduction to the world the Wild Boars were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Saman died on July 6 after losing consciousness during a mission to place oxygen tanks deep inside the cave, just two days before the first boys were brought to safety.

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