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Thai soccer team the Wild Boars and Coach Ekkapol Ake Chantawong (aka Coach Ake) sat down for their first group interview since being rescued in July.
The Chiang Rai, Thailand-based team, using a Thai translator, opened up about their experience being trapped in the cave for 18 days and what survival skills they used as they waited for aid in an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show airing Monday.
“They weren’t scared and they always had hope and they know that if they don’t come out, eventually someone would have to come in and get them out,” Ake said of his team.
According to the team’s coach, the Tham Luang cave network is a tourist attraction in Thailand, which was why the boys entered the cave: “The cave is usually a tourist attraction anyways so some of the boys have never been in and they decided to go in just to see what it’s like.”
One of the boys said “that the coach told them to pray and mediate so that they can stay calm and then they will be conscious, and that when they’re calm they can figure out what to do next.”
“When they mediate they conserve energy so that they’re not using too much energy, while in the cave,” added Ake.
The entire team entered the cave June 23, and members of the team were retrieved one by one, as the rescue mission proved to be dangerous. Ake was the last member of the team to be saved, and everyone had emerged from the cave on July 10.
When asked if they remembered anything from the rescue, some of the boys said that they didn’t remember the details, as it was too dark and they were sedated during the rescue.
After the interview, DeGeneres surprised her guests with Ellen-ized soccer jerseys and an appearance by their favorite soccer player, L.A. Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“This team is more braver than me. And they show their collective teamwork. … This is probably the best team in the world,” said Ibrahimovic.
He gifted the Wild Boars with L.A. Galaxy memorabilia and invited them to a private practice with all the Galaxy players at the StubHub Center. DeGeneres also gave the team VIP access and tickets to a LAFC game.
Watch the full interview below.
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