Thailand's cave boys wake up at home for first time in weeks

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During their first public appearance since being saved, the boys, who are part of the football team Wild Boars, joined the Seals to have a kick about.

The boys, all members of the Wild Boars junior soccer team, introduced themselves to the media, shared their nicknames and told the audience what position they played on the team.

Vans painted in silver and pink drove the boys, aged 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach, out of the hospital where they have stayed since last week's worldwide effort to extricate them from a flooded cave complex where they had been trapped.

Saman died on July 6 after losing consciousness during a mission to place oxygen tanks deep inside the cave, just two days before the first boys were brought to safety.

Addressing a question as to why they entered inside the cave, their coach, who is known locally as Ake, said the boys were curious to look inside the cave as they'd never visited before.

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The boys are due to return to their homes later on Wednesday.

The coach said the trip was meant to last one hour, simply because "each of us wanted to see what was inside".

Rescuers had to pull the boys, weak and starved, through the frigid waters of the cramped, flooded, 4-km-long gantlet that had already killed one expert diver.

In their first public appearance since their daring and nearly improbable rescue, the young Thai soccer players emerged holding soccer balls, dribbling them in a show of health and good spirits before detailing their weeks-long ordeal.

The youngsters and their football coach spoke for the first time about their ordeal as they appeared at a televised news conference in Chiang Rai.

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One of the boys, 13-year-old Mongkol Boonpiam, said: "I feel stronger, I have more patience, endurance, tolerance".

The 50-year-old was one of the divers who guided boys through the murky waters and narrow passageways in a scenario deemed one of the most unsafe cave divers have ever faced.

The boys and their coach had planned to explore the cavern for about an hour after football practice on June 23.

They were said to have lost an average of 9 pounds during the more than two weeks they were trapped in the cave.

It would take another eight days to get the entire group out of the cave, as rescue workers set about lowering the water level by pumping water out of the cave, aided by a lull in the seasonal monsoon deluge.

A crowd of media and onlookers was penned behind barricades as the boys arrived in vans from the hospital where they had stayed since last week's global effort to extricate them from a flooded cave complex in which they had been trapped.

"At this early stage, we are trying to get media not to bother the boys", he told Reuters, adding that they were protected by Thailand's Child Protection Act.

The media was not allowed to interview the boys after the news conference.

Parents of the boys have since been advised by doctors not to speak to the press for at least a month, as they recover from the traumatic experience.

"I stopped thinking about food because it would make me even hungrier", the youngest one said.

The team has been quarantined since their rescue to prevent them from contracting any kind of infection from their families. They spent nine harrowing days trapped in darkness until two British divers found them.

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