FIFA delighted after safe rescue of young Thai footballers and coach

FIFA has expressed its “great joy” at the news from Thailand where 12 young footballers and their coach have been rescued from flooded caves after an 18-day ordeal.

The boys, aged between 11 and 17, entered the Tham Luang cave system in Chiang Rai province with their 25-year-old coach on 23 June but became trapped when heavy rain cut off their way out.

The plight of the Wild Boars team has dominated global news for a fortnight and a Thai diver died on Friday when he ran out of oxygen following a mission to get air tanks to the group.

But the huge international rescue operation, including divers from the UK, got eight of the boys out on Sunday and Monday, with the last four and their coach coming out earlier on Tuesday.

Last week, FIFA said it would invite the group to Russia 2018 as soon as they were rescued but the Thai authorities have told world football’s governing body that the team will not be fit enough to travel to Sunday’s game in Moscow.

In a statement, a FIFA spokesperson said: “FIFA would like to express its great joy at the news of the rescue of the 12 young footballers and their coach.

“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.

People celebrate after the safe evacuation of some of the boys (Sakchai Lalit/AP)

“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.”

The spokesperson added that a meeting with the Thai FA would take place in the Russian capital in the coming days.

Earlier on Tuesday, Manchester United invited the Wild Boars and the rescue party to Old Trafford.

In a message posted on Twitter, the Premier League club said: “#MUFC is relieved to learn that the 12 footballers and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand are now safe.

“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.”

There was also a message for the boys from England defender Kyle Walker, who said he wanted to send them football shirts.

The message from Walker on Twitter read: “Amazing news that all of the Thai kids are out of the cave safely! I’d like to send out shirts to them! Is there anyone who can help with an address?”

Video from inside the cave released last week showed one of the boys wearing what appeared to be a red replica England shirt, and an image of him accompanied Walker’s message on Tuesday.

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Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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