FIFA invites Thai soccer players trapped in cave to the World Cup final

Rescuers lines up to enter Tham Luang Nang Non cave to continue rescue operation on July 05, 2018 in Chiang Rai, Thailand. The 12 boys and their soccer coach have been found alive in the cave where they’ve been for over a week after rains blocked the entrance. (Getty Images)

FIFA President Gianni Infantino has sent a letter to the President of Thailand’s soccer association, officially inviting the young Thai soccer players currently trapped in a cave to the World Cup final if they are rescued in time and well enough to make the journey.

“We have been anxiously following the news of the rescue operation in the search for 12 young footballers and their coach in a flooded cave in northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai province since 23 June 2018, and are now greatly relieved to hear the good news that they have been found by the rescue team,” writes Infantino in the letter.

The FIFA President goes on to offer his “deepest sympathies and support to the families of the players and coach.”

“If, as we all hope, they are reunited with their families in the coming days and their health allows them to travel, FIFA would be delighted to invite them to attend the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow as our guests.”

Here is the letter in full.

Photo via Twitter

The 12 boys and their coach have been trapped in the cave since June 23. They reportedly entered the cave as part of an “initiation ritual” when they became trapped by floodwaters from monsoon rains. Navy SEAL team divers discovered them a week later, alive and safe in an unflooded chamber.

Since then, the situation has taken a more urgent turn. With more rains on the way, rescuers are in a race against time to find a way to free the boys before the water levels rise and flood the chamber they have been sheltering in.

As of now, the only way out seems to be a difficult underwater journey through the flooded passageways that would require the use of scuba gear and oxygen tanks. This is made all the more complicated by the fact that the coach and many of the boys can’t swim. Making matters worse, all 13 of them are in a depleted state of health as a result of the ordeal that’s seen them trapped below ground for nearly two weeks.

On Thursday, an ex-Navy SEAL who was working as a volunteer to help rescue the boys, died from lack of oxygen while attempting to place oxygen canisters in the cave. Oxygen levels in the cave are reportedly dwindling, making the situation all the more urgent.

The boys, who are between the ages of 11 to 16, are currently being cared for by Navy SEALs. They have reportedly asked the SEALs looking after them for details on what has happened in the World Cup since they became trapped.

The Croatian national team, which will play Russia in the World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday, has also issued a message of support to the boys.

“We are awed by the bravery and strength that these boys and their coach have shown amidst such frightening circumstances. There are situations that are bigger than sports, but their sporting competitiveness will help them cope with the current challenge,” read the statement in part.

With teams working around the clock to pump water out of the caves, Elon Musk has sent engineers from two of his companies in Thailand to see if they can help bring the boys out before more rains come. And with any luck, perhaps even in time for them to watch the World Cup final, which is set for June 15 in Moscow.

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