The video shows them wrapped in foil blankets. The footage is grainy but underneath the foil blankets two of the boys are clearly wearing replica football shirts – one sports a Real Madrid top, another a red England national team jersey.
Aged between 11 and 16 years old, these are the boys of the Wild Boar football team, who are trapped in a cave in northern Thailand. And the eyes of the world are very much on them as officials try to coordinate their rescue.
When the 12 boys and their soccer coach entered the cave, only to become stranded in the dark tunnels by a sudden and continuous downpour, the World Cup in Russia had been going on for just over a week.
The globe’s biggest football tournament has proved an event full of shocks and surprises, but the Wild Boar team is on the minds of its organizers and some of the sport’s greatest stars.
“It is terrible news and the world of football hopes that someone can find a way to take these kids out of there,” former Real Madrid and Brazilian star Ronaldo told reporters at a FIFA media event. Ronaldo won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and claimed the golden boot award after scoring eight goals in that tournament.
Football’s governing body FIFA told CNN Sport it was in close contact with the Football Association of Thailand about the boys’ plight.
“It is with great joy that we have received the news that the 12 boys and their football coach have been found alive after nine days missing in a flooded cave in Thailand,” said FIFA in a statement.
“We hope that with the help of the rescue team, the boys and their coach will be brought safely out of the cave so that they can be reunited with their families.”
Leicester City’s Christian Fuchs also urged the boys to “be strong.” Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha is the owner of the English Premier League club.
“We have very strong ties with the country of Thailand, I’m closely following the rescue efforts to secure the lives of the 12 players and their coach,” Fuchs told CNN Sport.
“I wish everybody all the best with their rescue efforts and I’m sure everything will be turning out well.”
Since Srivaddhanaprabha purchased Leicester for $57 million in 2010, the club has gone from strength to strength and against the odds won the Premier League in 2016.
Srivaddhanaprabha is the founder of Thailand’s leading duty free store, King Power, and his net worth is $4.9 billion, according to Forbes.
Since being located, efforts continue to rescue the boys and bring them food, medicine and warm clothing.
Chiang Rai, govenor Narongsak Osottanakorn did not give an estimate on when they could be brought out and reunited with their families.
“All I can say is everyone is working very hard here. Everyone is working their hardest. They haven’t rested since day one,” he said in a media conference on Wednesday.