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Real Madrid and Barça invite Thai 'cave kids' to visit
SPAIN'S two most successful football teams have invited the 12 Thai schoolboys and their sports coach to a match once they are fully recovered after their ordeal of more than two weeks in a flooded cave in the northern province of Chiang Rai.
Real Madrid noticed via the TV news that one of the boys from the Thailand-based Wild Boars Football Club was wearing a shirt for the Spanish premier league team and contacted the embassy in Bangkok to invite the group to the Santiago Bernabéu stadium as a 'reward' for their 'bravery and aplomb'.
Not to be outdone, Real Madrid's main rival FC Barcelona decided to invite them to the Camp Nou stadium to take part in football-related activities, tour the grounds and watch a match while they were in the country visiting the team based in the capital.
They will be able to join in the annual Barça Academy meeting and take part in Masía 360 events.
Rescue efforts started on Sunday with several hundred expert divers from all over the world, including Fernando Raigal, 33, originally from Ciudad Real in central Spain and a long-term resident in Thailand, as well as a full team of British scuba-divers – two of whom found the children and their football coach inside the Tham Huang Nang Non cave.
The only way for the 12 kids and their trainer to get out was by teaching them to dive, and by Sunday they had learnt enough to start preparing their exit.
A complex and delicate three-day operation ensued, and it was confirmed last night (Tuesday) that all 13 were now safe.
They have been admitted to Chiang Rai hospital where they will need to spend at least a week under observation and being given medical checks, although at present it is thought they are all relatively unharmed except for having lost around two kilos (4.4lb) each in weight.
The group was inside the flooded cave for 15 days before they were located and the Thai Armed Forces began passing food, drink, medication and other supplies to them.
In total, they have been there for nearly three weeks.
Despite the happy ending to what was originally expected to be a multiple tragedy, one of the Thai divers was killed in the operation.
All the others, although exhausted from the efforts, are safe.
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