MANCHESTER: English Premier League side Manchester United have invited the Wild Boars football team, like the Chilean miners rescued in 2010, to visit Old Trafford following their dramatic rescue on Tuesday (Jul 10).
The final five members of the young football team - four youngsters and their 25-year-old coach - were rescued from a flooded Thai cave after spending 18 harrowing days trapped deep inside, completing an astonishing against-the-odds rescue mission that captivated the world.
The dozen players - aged 11 to 16 - and the coach had already received an invitation from FIFA chief Gianni Infantino last week to attend the World Cup final on Sunday in Moscow - although after their traumatic experience they may not be up to the trip physically or mentally.
Manchester United, though, tweeted an invitation just after the news that all had been rescued. With the Premier League season lasting from August through to May, there will be plenty of time for them to recuperate and opportunity for them to take the offer up.
"#MUFC is relieved to learn that the 12 footballers and their coach trapped in a cave in Thailand are now safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected. We would love to welcome the team from Wild Boars Football Club and their rescuers to Old Trafford this coming season," the club tweeted.
ENGLAND, FRANCE STARS HAIL WILD BOARS
England and Manchester City defender Kyle Walker, who is preparing for a World Cup semi-final showdown in Moscow, said he would like to send the boys football shirts.
One of the boys was pictured wearing an England jersey while trapped in the cave.
"Amazing news that all of the Thai kids are out of the cave safely! I'd like to send out shirts to them! Is there anyone who can help with an address?" wrote Walker.
French midfielder Paul Pogba sent good wishes to the boys via Twitter following his side’s semi-final win against Belgium in St Petersburg.
"This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong."
BOBBY CHARLTON AND THE CHILEAN MINERS
United - who this year commemorated the 60th anniversary of their own traumatic experience of the Munich Air disaster that decimated the celebrated Busby Babes - extended a similar invitation to the 33 Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days in 2010.
The idea for that invitation which was spread over several days came from Bobby Charlton - one of those who survived the crash and also came from a mining community - and 23 of the miners eventually went, with the visit culminating in them watching the team play Arsenal.
United gave the miners jerseys with their names on the back, plus the number reflecting when they were lifted out of the mine during the rescue.
Present United manager Jose Mourinho had also given the miners a guided tour at his then club Real Madrid.
BENFICA INVITE TO TRAINING ACADEMY
Portuguese club Benfica have also invited the boys and their coach to spend an all-expenses-paid week at its training academy.
Club president Luis Filipe Vieira wrote to the Thai ambassador to Portugal to invite the boys to the camp in Seixal across the River Tagus from the capital, a club statement said on Tuesday.
“We believe this simple gesture can help these faces recover the joy and smiles that no child should ever lose,” Vieira said in the letter.
READ MORE | Full coverage of the Thai cave search and rescue operation: