The perilous plight of 12 Thai youth soccer players and their coach trapped in a flooded cave for more than two weeks concluded with smiles on Tuesday when divers pulled the last of five remaining team members from the darkness.
The remarkable mission that claimed the life of one rescue diver but defied the odds otherwise found all 13 members of the Wild Boars soccer team pulled from Tham Luang Cave in relative good health.
With the World Cup reaching its climax, FIFA invited the Wild Boars to attend Sunday’s final in Moscow between France and the winner of Wednesday’s England-Croatia match.
Rescued Thai boys can’t accept World Cup invitation
Sadly, the boys and their coach had to decline under orders from their doctors to remain in the hospital for seven days for monitoring.
FIFA released a statement Tuesday on the ordeal and the invitation.
“FIFA would like to express its great joy at the news of the rescue of the 12 young footballers and their coach,” the statement reads. “We would like to convey our profound gratitude to all persons involved in the rescue operation, which unfortunately took the life of one of the divers. Our thoughts are with his family.
“We have been informed by the Football Association of Thailand that due to medical reasons, the boys will not be in a position to travel to Moscow for the World Cup final. 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.”
Soccer world reaches out in other ways
The soccer world has reached out in other ways to rescued boys.
French midfielder Paul Pogba dedicated his side’s semifinal win over Belgium Tuesday to the rescued team.
England defender Kyle Walker sought out the boys’ contact information to send them jerseys.
Meanwhile, Manchester United invited the boys to game at their home stadium Old Trafford next season while Portugese team Benfica invited the Wild Boars to an expenses-paid week at its training academy.
“We believe this simple gesture can help these faces recover the joy and smiles that no child should ever lose,” club president Luis Filipe Vieira wrote to the Thai ambassador to Portugal.
While it’s a shame the boys can’t make the World Cup final, the soccer world is looking out for the Wild Boars.
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