Thailand Cave Rescue For 'Wild Boars' Soccer Team

Thailand's Rescued Soccer Team: Homecoming Photos

All 12 young members of the Wild Boars and their coach finally get a chance to tell their story.

For the first time since their dramatic rescue from a flooded cave in northern Thailand, all 12 members of the Wild Boars soccer team and their coach appeared in public to tell their story and pay tribute to those who helped save their lives. Wearing matching team jerseys, the boys – who were released from the hospital early on Wednesday – looked happy to be back home after almost a month away. Here, photos from their press conference in Chiang Rai.

RETRACING STEPS Linh Pham/Getty Images RETRACING STEPS Recalling the fateful decision to enter the Tham Luang Nang Non cave on June 23, the boys' coach, 25-year-old Ekkapol Chanthawong (aka Ake, pictured), said that some of the team members (ranging in age from 11 to 16) had never seen the cave complex before, and wanted to explore. The group toured the cave for about an hour before turning around to head back, but it was too late: Monsoon rains had filled the tunnels with water, and by the time the 13 reached the flooded entrance, they knew they were trapped. RISING WATERS LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images RISING WATERS In a particularly harrowing moment, the team's coach realized they would need to find higher ground after the sound of rushing water alerted him to the quickly rising waters. Upon finding a ledge on which they could perch, he then instructed the 12 boys to start digging in search of a potential exit.

More Stories From FOTO

SURVIVAL MODE Linh Pham/Getty Images SURVIVAL MODE The team started to feel weak after two days stuck in the cave, but discovered a trickle of fresh water that helped sustain them. One of the youngest boys said he tried not to think about food, but found it hard to stop thinking about fried rice. REACHING SAFETY LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images REACHING SAFETY On the day of their rescue, the boys were busy digging when they heard the sound of people talking. Fourteen-year-old Ardoon Sam-aon inched closer to the ledge and shined his flashlight in the water. Recalling the moment when British divers emerged from the surface, Ardoon said, he was shocked; all he could think to say was “Hello!” REMEMBERING A HERO LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images REMEMBERING A HERO On a more somber note, the boys said they were sad to learn of the death of Saman Kunan, the 38-year-old former Thai Navy SEAL who died during the rescue mission. In an expression of gratitude for his sacrifice, they presented a portrait of Kunan signed by the entire team. FUTURE PROSPECTS Linh Pham/Getty Images FUTURE PROSPECTS Though many of the boys said they still have dreams of playing professional soccer, when asked who wanted to join the Navy SEALs when they grow up, all 12 raised their hands. Pictured: The rescued boys sit with one of the Thai Navy SEALs who stayed in the cave with them after they were found. LOCAL CELEBS Linh Pham/Getty Images LOCAL CELEBS Wild Boars soccer coach Ake shakes hands with fans following the team's first public appearance. TOUCHING TRIBUTE LILLIAN SUWANRUMPHA/AFP/Getty Images TOUCHING TRIBUTE A local artist puts the finishing touches on a mural in Chiang Rai dedicated to the incredible rescue mission, July 18.



For more FOTO stories directly in your inbox, sign up for our free weekly newsletter.