The Thai youth football team who spent 17 dark days trapped in a cave have made their first group appearance on international television.
Appearing on Ellen Degeneres’s talk show, The Ellen Show, the 12 members of the Wild Boars team and their coach Ekkapol Ake Chantawong were spirited, cheerful and seemed unfazed by the global celebrity they have attracted since their dramatic rescue in July. The boys – most of whom come from poor families in northern Thailand – have been thrust into the limelight over the past three months. The frenzy around them has subsided somewhat in Thailand but the adulation continues to roll in as they tour the world.
They have been in Argentina for the youth Olympic summer games in Buenos Aires, and on Tuesday they were presented with the Asian game-changer award by the Thai prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, recognising the “glory” they had brought on the Thai people and their country.
Speaking on Ellen through a translator, the boys revealed that four of them had their birthdays while trapped in the cave but did not celebrate them at the time. They also said they “remembered nothing” about their rescue – it took divers and navy seals eight hours to get each of them out.
Asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, the boys’ answer was unanimous. “They all want a good education and have good jobs and be professional soccer players so they can take care of their families,” said the translator.
The team and their coach looked most overwhelmed when their football hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who now plays for LA Galaxy, made a surprise appearance on the show to meet them. The Swedish player high-fived each member of the team.
“These kids, this team is more braver than me and they showed their collective teamwork and had patience, faith,” Ibrahimovic said. “This is probably the best team in the world.”