Thai cave rescue: Football stars, world leaders share global joy as all 12 boys and coach are rescued

FIFA president Gianni Infantino in Moscow for the Russia 2018 World Cup. He welcomed the trapped boys to attend the World Cup final on July 8, upon their miraculous rescue. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK (AFP) - World leaders and football stars joined the global outpouring of relief and congratulations at the astounding rescue of a young football team and their coach from a flooded Thai cave.

The boys and their coach were found by a British cave diving team after more than a week underground.

SPH Brightcove Video
The Thai navy Seals that helped lead 12 boys and their soccer coach through a flooded cave to safety return home to a hero's welcome.

Here are some of the reactions:

US President Donald Trump

Trump was among the first to congratulate the Thai Navy Seals who spearheaded the mammoth international rescue effort at the Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand.

"On behalf of the United States, congratulations to the Thai Navy Seals and all on the successful rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the treacherous cave in Thailand," Trump tweeted.

"Such a beautiful moment - all freed, great job!"

British PM Theresa May

"Delighted to see the successful rescue of those trapped in the caves in Thailand. The world was watching and will be saluting the bravery of all those involved," May said on Twitter.

Tech guru Elon Musk

"Great news that they made it out safely. Congratulations to an outstanding rescue team!" said tech guru Elon Musk, who visited the cave and offered the use of a prototype mini-submarine made from rocket parts.

In the end, the submarine was not needed and Musk earlier said he would leave it "here in case it may be useful in the future".

Chilean miners

"Youjuuuu!" exclaimed Chilean miner Mario Sepulveda, who was among 33 miners trapped down a mine for 69 days in 2010.

"I feel a lot, a lot of emotion. What can I say? I hope these kids will be very successful," he told news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).

French World Cup star Paul Pogba

Pogba dedicated France's World Cup semi-final win against Belgium to the 12 boys, who are nicknamed the Wild Boars after the academy they train with.

Following the 1-0 win in Saint Petersburg, Pogba, who also plays for Manchester United, tweeted: "This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong."

Manchester United

Manchester United invited the Wild Boars, as well as those involved in the rescue, to travel to England and visit the club.

"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," the club said in tweet.

"Amazing news that all of the Thai kids are out of the cave safely! I'd like to send out shirts to them," England and Manchester City defender Kyle Walker also tweeted.


Football's governing body Fifa also welcomed the rescue but said the boys were too weak to attend Sunday's World Cup final in Moscow.

Fifa boss Gianni Infantino had invited the boys' Wild Boars football team to the final "as our guests" last week.

But 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.


"What wonderful news from #Thailand! So much to admire: the perseverance of the brave boys and their coach, the skill and determination of the rescuers," tweeted Steffen Seibert, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman.

German football stars Toni Kroos and Mesut Ozil also celebrated the rescue, with both describing it on Twitter as "great news".


Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said he was "relieved with the happy outcome" of the cave rescue.

"Congratulations to the brave rescuers, including several Belgian divers," he tweeted.

"Thoughts also go out to the Thai Navy Seal who gave his life in this rescue operation," he added.

Former Thai Navy diver Saman Kunan died on Friday when he ran out of oxygen while returning from the chamber where the boys were trapped.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.