They’re coming home: football world hails Thai cave ‘heroes’

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MOSCOW, July 11, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – They may not make it to the World Cup
final, but the schoolboy team rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand has
been hailed as “heroes” by top footballers and clubs after their dramatic
ordeal.

Paul Pogba, Manchester United and Barcelona were among the masses around
the world to breathe a sigh of relief as the Wild Boars team finally emerged
after more than two weeks trapped underground.

In a sign of how their plight had gripped players at the ongoing World Cup
in Russia, Paul Pogba dedicated France’s semi-final win against Belgium to
the youngsters.

“This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so
strong,” the Manchester United midfielder tweeted after Tuesday’s 1-0 win.

England defender Kyle Walker, ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final against
Croatia, also welcomed the news and offered to send them football shirts.

“Amazing news that all of the Thai kids are out of the cave safely! I’d
like to send out shirts to them! Is there anyone who can help with an
address?” he tweeted.

The 12 boys, aged 11-16, and their 25-year-old coach became trapped by
rising floodwaters after setting off to explore a cave complex in northern
Thailand after football training on June 23.

The last of the group was finally extracted on Tuesday, 18 days later,
after a painstaking and dangerous international rescue mission led by Thai
Navy SEALs.

However, football’s world governing body FIFA said the Wild Boars, who are
recovering in hospital, remained too weak to take up an earlier invitation to
Sunday’s World Cup final in Moscow.

FIFA said it had been informed “that due to medical reasons, the boys will
not be in a position to travel to Moscow”.

“FIFA’s priority remains the health of everyone involved in the operation
and we will look into finding a new opportunity to invite the boys to a FIFA
event to share with them a moment of communion and celebration,” a spokesman
said. But both the team and their rescuers could be in line for a trip to Old
Trafford after Manchester United invited them to their home ground this
season.

MUFC is relieved to learn that the 12 footballers and their coach trapped
in a cave in Thailand are now safe,” the club tweeted.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. We would love to
welcome the team from Wild Boars Football Club and their rescuers to Old
Trafford this coming season.”

United extended a similar invitation to the 33 Chilean miners who were
trapped underground for 69 days in 2010, giving each of them a shirt with his
name on the back and a number reflecting the order they were rescued.

The boys will also head to Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium after the Spanish
giants invited them to next year’s Barca Academy International Tournament and
a home game.

Rescuers had weighed up several options to save the boys, including
keeping them in the cave through the months-long monsoon season.

But they were prodded into the dangerous task of “diving out” the team
through submerged chambers and claustrophobic passages as oxygen levels in
the cave plummeted and rains menaced.

The group were led out in three batches by a team of 13 international
divers flanked by the Thai Navy SEALs, who greeted each successful rescue
with a “Hooyah” on their Facebook page.

Earlier, Japan’s World Cup squad, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and
Croatia’s football federation were among those to send messages of support
during the boys’ ordeal.

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