A week after all 12 members of the youth soccer team and their adult coach were safely rescued from the flooded Thailand cave, the group appeared at a press conference to give their firsthand account of the saga that captivated the world.
The Wild Boars soccer team — ranging in age from 11 to 16 — had been exploring the Tham Luang Nang Non cave complex in northern Thailand with their 25-year-old coach on June 23 when heavy rains and rising floodwaters blocked their path, leaving the group unable to get out.
All were finally rescued on July 10, after 18 days trapped underground. They then spent a week quarantined in a Chiang Rai hospital, being treated for scratches, fever, and signs of hypothermia.
On Wednesday, they were given their full freedom, reuniting with their families before heading to a conference center decorated, fittingly, as a soccer field.
Doctors, social workers and psychologists — who said the boys and their coach were all recovering well — joined the group alongside the three Navy SEALs who lead the rescue, all to help filter questions, according to multiple outlets.
There, it was revealed the trapped boys and their coach — all wearing their uniforms at the press conference — survived by licking a trickle of fresh water dripping off a rock in the cave, CBS News reported.
They said they had no food when they went off to explore the cave.
One player admitted that, according to CBS News, “After two days we started to feel weak.”
Another added that he “tried not to think about food” and meditated instead, while one said that he kept his stomach filled with water to compensate, according to CBS News.
After days spent trying to find a way out, even digging for paths themselves, the boys were finally discovered by a British diver.
“We didn’t think it was real,” said one of the team members according to CBS News, explaining that they couldn’t see him in the dark and only heard his voice (they had one flashlight with them that they were using “economically”).
Only one of the boys among the group spoke English, according to multiple outlets. He simply told the diver “Hello” with confusion. “I didn’t know what to say to him so I just said ‘hello,’ ” he explained. “I was shocked. … My brain was very slow, as we had been in the cave for 10 days.”
Asked by the diver if he was okay, the player said he was. “Hungry, hungry,” he recalled saying. He continued that “his heart was filled with hope.”
“I thought, ‘This really miracle,’ ” he said, CNN translated.
All of the boys introduced themselves one by one at Wednesday’s press conference, thanking viewers for their support and all who had helped rescue them, ABC News reported.
Doctors said they had lost an average of 9 lbs. while in the cave, and had already gained approximately 6 lbs. back.
They boys apologized to their parents for going to the cave in the first place, ABC News reported.
There was also a tribute to the Thai Navy SEAL diver who died in their rescue operation. “Thank you very much for your sacrifice,” one reportedly said.
Thousands of Navy SEAL divers, police, soldiers, border guards and officials were brought in to help with the around-the-clock rescue efforts, including pararescue and survival specialists from the U.S. Pacific Command, the AFP had previously reported.
The team was pulled out of the caves in groups of four, the first on Sunday, July 8, the second on Monday, July 9, and the final on Tuesday, July 10.