Thai cave boys leave hospital and give first TV interview since being rescued

The boys were applauded as they arrived at the press conference

The boys rescued from a cave in northern Thailand have been cheered as they arrived for their first TV interview since their dramatic rescue.

The news conference started with the boys playing a quick game of football and paying tribute to Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, who died during the rescue effort.

A doctor who treated the boys said they have each gained an average of 3kg in weight since their rescue.

A mini soccer field being set up before the press conference (AP)
Some of the rescued soccer team members eat a meal together at a hospital in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand (AP)

She said: ‘They are physically and emotionally well.’

One of the boys said he was ‘shocked’ when one of the divers who came to rescue them was British.

He added: ‘It’s just a miracle that happened.

‘I was frightened. I said ‘can I help you?”

The boys said they watched the World Cup final on Sunday, with most of them backing eventual winners France.

Describing the moment they entered the cave, the coach of the team said: ‘The cave was deep and it was long.

‘We saw the water but it wasn’t deep. I said: ‘Do you want to go in because we have one hour?’

The coach added that he asked the boys if they wanted to explore and told them they would have to swim.

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After realising they were trapped, one of the boys admitted: ‘I was really afraid I would not be able to return home.’

Their coach told them not to give up hope.

Having eaten all their food before entering the cave, the coach said the group drank water from cave walls to survive.

With water levels continue to rise inside the cave, the boys said they dug a cave wall to make a safe place, and drank the clear water over the first 10 days.

The Wild Boars football team members pose with a sketch of the Thai Navy SEAL diver who died while trying to rescue them (AP)

The coach revealed that the group all played chequers to pass the time – but they lost to a Navy SEAL who they nicknamed the ‘king of the cave’.

The youth football team, who were trapped for 18 days in the Tham Luang flooded cave, were released from hospital before the press conference.

Doctors, social workers and psychologists were on hand at the news conference to filter questions and ensure the boys’ well-being.

The Wild Boars team-mates had entered the cave on June 23 for a quick excursion after practice, but rain began falling while they were underground, and the water filled the caverns, cutting off their escape.

The boys were rescued in a daring operation from the Tham Luang cave (AP)

Divers found the group huddling on a spot of dry ground deep inside the cave 10 days later, hungry but generally healthy.

An international team of rescuers using diving equipment and pulleys extracted the 12 boys and the coach through the tight, flooded passageways over three days, concluding on July 10.

Some of the boys were treated for minor infections during their hospital stay, but all 13 have been described as recovering well.