As the world watches the World Cup excitement from Russia, another heart-wrenching football story is being played out in the Tham Luang caves in Northern Thailand.
On June 23, 2018, 12 boys in the Wild Boars football team, and their coach, started exploring the long cave system after practice during a torrential downpour. When her son did not return home that evening, one of the mothers alerted local authorities who immediately started a search for the boys.
Soon they found bicycles belonging to the boys at the mouth of the cave. It became apparent that the boys were trapped inside because the heavy rain had flooded the cave. Many feared the worst and parents set up a vigil outside the cave. Experienced divers went into the cave twice but had to retreat as water levels were high. But then 12 days later, a miracle! Two divers reached an inner sanctum of the cave and discovered the team alive!
The challenge to get them out remained. Options included:
- having them wait for months for the water to recede,
- drilling through the top of the cave (dangerous and time-consuming), or
- training the boys to swim and dive (many couldn’t do either).
Food, medicine and oxygen lines were sent down to help them survive, and pumps were siphoning gallons of water, but the incessant rain was not helping, and tragically, one of the divers lost his life trying to reach the boys.
Finally, authorities used a break in the weather to begin a risky rescue. On July 8, to the sound of deafening cheers, four of the boys were brought to safety by courageous divers. The illustration below shows how the children were brought out. Operations were halted at night and resumed the next day.
On the second day of the mission, four more boys were rescued, leaving four remaining boys and their soccer coach. We are hopeful that they will be brought out safely in a third and final mission today.
We wish them all the luck in the world and hope this story has the best ending for the footballers and their families. Several teams from the World Cup have sent their best wishes to these young footballers, and FIFA has invited them to Russia to see the World Cup Finals next weekend!
UPDATE ON JULY 10, 2018: ALL PLAYERS AND THEIR COACH HAVE BEEN RESCUED!
Written by: Pereena Lamba. Pereena is a freelance writer, editor and creative consultant . She is also co-author of Totally Mumbai.