Thai boys trapped in cave the world's best team: Zlatan

Football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to meet the 12 players and coach of the Thai football team Wild Boars who had been stranded in a cave.
Football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to meet the 12 players and coach of the Thai football team Wild Boars who had been stranded in a cave.PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FACEBOOK / ELLEN DEGENERES

LOS ANGELES • No one has ever accused football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic of shying away from fearsome tackles by rugged defenders. But on Monday, on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, he said: "This team is braver than me. And they show their collective team work. This is probably the best team in the world."

He was referring to the 12 players and coach of Thai side Wild Boars, who turned up on the show to speak about their dramatic rescue from a flooded cave complex in Thailand earlier this year.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, they revealed their survival tactics during the 18 days they were stranded. But why had they entered the cave in the first place? Coach Ekkapol Ake Chantawong said the Tham Luang cave network was a tourist attraction - "some of the boys had never been in and they decided to go in just to see what it was like".

When events turned calamitous, they went into defensive mode. One of the boys said the coach told them to pray and meditate so that they could stay calm and figure out the next game plan.

Asked about their eventual rescue, some of the boys said they were sedated and that it was too dark for them to retain any vivid memories.

Ibrahimovic, who now plays for LA Galaxy, scored with the boys when he invited them to a practice session with his team, while DeGeneres provided an assist by coughing up game tickets.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2018, with the headline 'Thai boys trapped in cave the world's best team: Zlatan'. Print Edition | Subscribe