MADRID – La Liga invited on Wednesday the 12 members of a youth soccer team and their coach, who were freed from a cave after being trapped for over two weeks, to travel to Spain to watch a Primera Division league match.
The last members of the team and their coach were rescued on Tuesday night after a mammoth rescue effort which lasted three days and involved thousands of rescue workers and a team of international divers.
Images of the children, several of whom were wearing European soccer jerseys, have been shared, triggering reactions from many in the football world.
The president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, said he was delighted to hear of their successful rescue, and praised the authorities and volunteers involved in the rescue efforts.
“When the time is right, and everyone involved is ready I’d personally like to invite the children and the coach to attend a La Liga match. We’d like to host them and share with them the joy football can give, and I hope this gesture can help after the events of the last few weeks,” Tebas said in a La Liga statement.
The 12 boys, between 11 and 16 years old, and their coach, 25, had gone into the cave after finishing soccer training, but a heavy rainstorm flooded the cavern and blocked their way out, trapping them inside.
Nine days later the soccer team was found, hungry and weak, four kilometers into the cave.
In a major rescue operation, the team were all removed from the cave over three days, with the last four boys and coach coming out on Tuesday evening.
The difficulty of the operation was illustrated by the death on Thursday of former Thai Navy SEAL Saman Kunan when he ran out of oxygen in the cave.
“I would also like to pay a special tribute to Saman Kunan, the former Navy Seal diver who tragically lost his life in the rescue attempts. Without Saman’s bravery and dedication the rescue of those trapped over the last 48 hours would never have happened. Everyone at LaLiga offers their deepest condolences to his family and friends at this time,” Tebas added.