Ellen DeGeneres scored the first TV interview with Coach Ake and the 12 players of the Wild Boars soccer team from Chiang Rai, Thailand, since their dramatic rescue last summer after being trapped in a flooded cave for 18 days.
And the boys’ soccer idol, L.A. Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimović, surprised the team — and hailed them as “probably the best team in the world.”
“These kids, this team is more braver than me,”he said. “They showed their collective teamwork and had patient faith and believed in others.”
Working with an interpreter, DeGeneres gets the team to recount its harrowing experience in a tourist cave that suddenly flooded and trapped them inside — without food or water and only a few flashlights and mobile phones among them.
“They only drank water that was clean, that was flowing down from the cave walls…from the stalagtites,” the interpreter said.
Sleep was also a challenge, the boys said: “It was quite humid and cold, but they fall asleep on and off — so it was like an hour’s sleep and they wake up.”
Still, their coach offered them good advice to get them through the experience. “The coach told them to pray and meditate so that they can stay calm,” one boy said, through the interpreter. “And when they meditate they are not using too much energy.”
Each rescue took approximately eight hours but the boys don’t remember much about the experience since they were sedated. In addition, four of the boys had birthdays while they were trapped inside the cave.
While they couldn’t celebrate inside, DeGeneres gifted each with a special soccer jersey with her own face on it.