Rescue Boys From Tham Luang Cave Make First Public Appearance

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The 12 boys and their soccer coach rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand waved, smiled and offered traditional "wai" greetings in their first public appearance at a national broadcast in the northern province of Chiang Rai.

"Bringing the Wild Boars Home", read a banner in Thai that used the name of the soccer team to welcome them on the set, created to resemble a soccer field, complete with goalposts and nets.

The young boys on the Thailand soccer team who were trapped in a cave with their coach for nearly three weeks were recently reunited with their families. "Personally, I have been there, but some had not been there before", said coach Ekkapol Chantawong.

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.

But when they did, they didn't panic, he said, figuring someone would find their bikes and come get them.

A translator at the event - which was timed to air as a segment of the Thailand Moving Forward show, on a government channel, said that the boys have been declared physically and emotionally ready to return to society.

During a press conference, the 12 boys and their soccer coach who spent weeks trapped in a cave in Thailand revealed that they had desperately tried to dig themselves out of the cave after realizing that they had become trapped.

The group had planned to explore the Tham Luang caves for about an hour after soccer practice on June 23.

When the hour was up, they were pretty deep inside and already had swum through some flooded areas in the spirit of adventure.

"We didn't want to do nothing and just wait for help", Ekapol said. That represents a depth of 10-13 feet.

The rescued players pose with a sketch of the Thai navy diver who died while trying to rescue them
Football team rescued from Thai cave expected to leave hospital

They said their dream of being professional footballers had not changed, and that the experience had made them stronger and given them more endurance and tolerance.

But water levels did not recede and they chose to try and dig their way out while waiting for rescue teams to come and find them, Ekapol said. One of the boys commented that they had been digging when the rescuers finally reached them. "On the first day we were OK, but after two days we started feeling exhausted".

"We felt dizzy, hungry and had no strength", said 11-year-old Chanin Wiboonrungrueng, the youngest player in the team.

One boy was anxious about his parents. "That I wouldn't go home and I would get scolded by my mother". He was released from the hospital Wednesday, where he's spent the past week with his teammates and coach.

The boys, who sported crisp haircuts, had gained an average of 3kg each since the rescue, and rain through confidence-building exercises ahead of Wednesday's event, the hospital director said.

The rescue effort drew global media attention and hundreds of journalists.

He was the former Thai navy diver who died while preparing for their rescue. "We were very sad".

Asked what have they learnt, a boy said: "I have learnt a lot from this experience".

"We don't know what wounds the kids are carrying in their hearts", said Justice Ministry official Tawatchai Thaikaew, who asked for the boys' privacy to be respected after their discharge.

Many of them apologised for not telling their parents that they would be going into a cave, saying they were only going for football practice.

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