The Thai soccer team trapped inside a flooded cave for two weeks have spoken about their ordeal for the first time since being released from hospital on Wednesday.
Adun Sam-On, 14, revealed the 'magical' moment that two British divers discovered them deep inside the Tham Luang cave complex and said they 'didn't believe it' at first.
Sam, who spoke at a press conference alongside his teammates and coach, said: 'We didn't think it was real at first, we were afraid they would walk past, so I said "hello".
'I heard "hello" first but I did not see him at first. We heard them because they got out of the water and they were saying something.
The Thai football players and their coach who were trapped underground in a flooded cave for more than two weeks have been questioned by the world's media for the first time after being released from hospital
The boys were released from hospital on Wednesday, eight days after the last team member was saved from the cave
The boys played football before sitting down to answer questions which were screen by psychologists ahead of time to avoid causing any further trauma
Eleven soccer players and their coach have left hospital eight days after the last of them were rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand where they were trapped for two weeks
The boys were dressed in their Wild Boars team kit as they were piled into waiting buses ahead of their first press conference
'I thought they were Thai officers but when they got out of the water I found they were English. I didn't know what to say so I said "hello".
'It was magical, I was shocked, I had to think about the question when got up he asked "how are you" and I said "we are OK". I said "can I help you?" and he said "no, just go up to the ledge.''
'They asked "how many of you". I said "13" and they said "brilliant".'
Coach Ekkapol Chantawong also revealed that all of the boys can swim, despite reports that most of them could not, and that they had never been to the cave before getting trapped - though often posted about it online.
He said they first realised they were trapped while trying to get out and seeing how far the water had risen. One boy said his first thought was that he would be scolded by his mother.
Ake said at first nobody panicked because they believed the water would recede the following day and that rescuers would come.
After he realised that would not happen, he assigned the boys shifts to dig at the back of the cave in order to find a way out, believing they could use ropes to climb to safety.
Ake, a former Buddhist monk, also advised the boys to avoid moving between digging shifts and to spend long stretches of time meditating to conserve energy.
The group survived on nothing but water running from the cave roof for 10 days before being found, with one boy saying he imagined fried rice in order to feel full.
The boys also revealed their guilt over the death of Navy SEAL Saman Kunan, with at least one saying he now wants to become a SEAL in Sam's memory.
Most of the team agreed that the experience has made them stronger as a result, and said they wanted to become professional footballers in the future.
All of the questions were screened by psychologists ahead of time to avoid causing the boys additional trauma.
'We don't know what wounds the kids are carrying in their hearts,' said justice ministry official Tawatchai Thaikaew, who asked for the boys' privacy to be respected after the discharge, for fear that media attention could affect their mental health.
'The media know the children are in a difficult situation, they have overcome peril and if you ask risky questions then it could break the law,' he told reporters.
Families of the youngsters are eagerly awaiting the homecoming.
Khameuy Promthep, the grandmother of 13-year-old Dom, one of the boys rescued from the cave, told AFP in an interview at their family shop in Mae Sai near the Myanmar border on Wednesday that she was very excited.
'This is the happiest day of my life,' she said.
The boys had previously been kept in quarantine in hospital but doctors decided to release them, saying they were in good health aside from minor infections
The Wild Boars, which is the name of their soccer team, were greeted by their friends at the provincial hall in Chiang Rai where they played football before being quizzed
Banphot Konkum, the uncle of Duangpetch Promthep, one of the boys rescued from a flooded cave, wipes his eyes as he watches his nephew on television
Banphot watched the press conference alongside other members of his emotional family on Wednesday evening in Thailand
The team had previously been kept in quarantine inside hospital amid fears they had contracted diseases during their two weeks spent trapped in a cave
While the team have delivered pre-prepared messages, including mourning for Navy SEAL Saman Kunan who drowned trying to save them, this will be the first time they have spoken live
The team spent more than two weeks trapped in the flooded Tham Luang cave before being rescued by an international team of divers
Elon Musk says sorry to hero British diver after calling him a 'pedo'
Elon Musk has apologised to a British expat who helped with the rescue of 12 schoolboys trapped in a cave in Thailand after calling him 'pedo guy'.
The billionaire entrepreneur, who is chief executive of the electric car maker Tesla Inc, issued the apology to Vernon Unsworth on Twitter this morning.
It comes after Tesla investors demanded an apology and called on him to 'take a Twitter sabbatical' after he 'crossed a line' with the baseless remark.
Mr Unsworth, 63, said yesterday he had been approached by British and American lawyers and would seek legal advice over the Twitter abuse.
Elon Musk (left) has apologised for his 'pedo guy' slur aimed at a British cave diver Vern Unsworth (right) who helped save 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand
Mr Musk said this morning that his 'words were spoken in anger' after Mr Unsworth insulted the miniature submarine the billionaire had hoped would be used in the rescue.
Responding to a Twitter user who had shared an article about the dispute, Mr Musk wrote: 'As this well-written article suggests, my words were spoken in anger after Mr Unsworth said several untruths & suggested I engage in a sexual act with the mini-sub, which had been built as an act of kindness & according to specifications from the dive team leader.
'Nonetheless, his actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone.'
The daring Thai-led international effort to rescue the team captivated the world after the football team walked into the cave on June 23 and were trapped by rising floodwaters.
After nine days without a steady supply of food or water they were found emaciated and huddled in a group on a muddy ledge by British divers several kilometres inside Tham Luang.
Rescuers debated on the best plan to bring them out but ultimately decided on a risky operation that involved diving them through waterlogged passages while they were sedated to keep them calm and carrying them out in military-grade stretchers.
Not even the foreign cave diving specialists who took part were sure the mission would work and many expressed relief when it was all over after the final five were rescued on July 10.
The group had planned to explore the Tham Luang cave complex for about an hour after soccer practice on June 23. But a rainy season downpour flooded the tunnels, trapping them.
Two British divers found them on July 2, squatting on a mound in a chamber several kilometres inside the complex. All were brought to safety during the three-day rescue, organised by Thai navy SEALs and a global team of cave-diving experts.
Some Thai television personalities joked that the boys' appearance would boost ratings for an otherwise dull show that usually features discussions of the military government's performance.
'This is the story all Thais want to hear. Don't switch it off, don't put it on mute,' joked a presenter of Voice TV, a broadcaster that is often critical of the military government.
'It should help the Thailand Moves Forward show's ratings shoot through the roof.'
The rescue effort drew global media attention and hundreds of journalists, many of whom left after it wrapped up, but excitement picked up again in the usually sleepy town of Chiang Rai ahead of the boys' much-anticipated appearance.
'The reporters are back. I had to pick up a Japanese reporter from the airport at 2 a.m.,' said tour operator Manop Netsuwan.
A cartoon of the group with its rescuers, captioned, 'Our Heroes', was displayed on a welcome screen at the airport.
'I pass the hospital where the children are staying every day and I say a prayer to thank Lord Buddha for their return,' said Duang, a noodle vendor, who asked to be identified only by her first name.
King Maha Vajiralongkorn has allowed a party to be held in the Royal Plaza, a public square in Bangkok's old town, to thank the Thai and foreign participants in the rescue, the government said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha told reporters the celebration would feature a banquet and entertainment, but gave no further details.
Thai cave rescue: a timeline of events in Tham Luang
- Saturday, June 23 - The youngsters, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach enter the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand during heavy rains after football practice.
They are reported missing after the boys do not come home that night.
Local officials find bicycles locked to a fence and shoes and football boots close to the entrance.
- Sunday, June 24 - Park officials and police find handprints and footprints believed to belong to the boys. Relatives start to keep vigil outside the cave.
- Monday, June 25 - Thai Navy SEAL divers enter the cave searching for the boys. Makeshift shrines are set up for parents to pray and make offerings as heavy rains continue.
- Tuesday, June 26 - Divers are forced out of the cave by rushing floodwaters as they try to reach an air pocket called 'Pattaya Beach', where the boys are believed to have retreated.
- Wednesday, June 27 - A team of more than 30 American military personnel from the US Pacific Command arrive and are joined by three British diving experts who start to probe the cave.
Thai rescue team members walk inside the cave where the 12 boys and their soccer coach first became trapped on June 23, in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province
- Thursday, June 28 - Downpours create fast-moving floods inside the cave forcing a suspension of the rescue. Water pumps start draining rising, murky floodwaters.
- Friday, June 29 - Thailand's junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha visits the site and urges relatives not to give up hope.
- Saturday, June 30 - A break in the rain allows divers to reach further inside the cave but they are still a long distance from where the boys are believed to be.
- Sunday, July 1 - Divers inch further in, as an operating base is set up inside 'Chamber Three' and hundreds of air tanks and other supplies are pulleyed in.
- Monday, July 2 - Finally, a miracle: the 12 boys and their coach are found alive late Monday evening about 400 metres beyond Pattaya Beach by the British cave diving team.
Crowds at the teeming rescue site cheer the good news, but attention soon turns to the difficult task of getting the boys out safely.
- Tuesday, July 3 - Much-needed food and medical supplies - including high-calorie gels and paracetamol - reach the boys as rescuers prepare for the possibility that they may remain in the cave for some time.
- Wednesday, July 4 - Officials say the group are being taught how to use diving masks and breathing apparatuses. Teams pump out water around the clock to help clear the path for divers.
- Thursday, July 5 - Authorities say expected rains may force a complex rescue quicker than first thought.
- Friday, July 6 - Tragedy strikes: a diver helping to establish an air line to the boys dies after passing out while returning from the chamber, raising serious doubts over the safety of attempting a rescue.
Thailand's Navy SEAL commander says oxygen levels inside have dropped. He warns the window of opportunity to free the youngsters is 'limited'.
- Saturday, July 7 - Rescue operations chief Narongsak Osottanakorn says the boys are not ready to dive to safety.
A scrawled message emerges from the team's coach, offering his 'apologies' to their parents, while in other touching notes the boys tell their relatives not to worry.
- Sunday, July 8 - Divers lead four of the boys out of the cave as night falls, sending them to the hospital.
Narongsak says late in the evening that the rescue mission will not start again for at least another 10 hours to allow oxygen and other supplies to be replenished.
- Monday, July 9 - As dusk falls four more boys are rescued. The Thai Navy SEALs greet another seemingly successful day with a social media post saying 'Hooyah'.
- Tuesday, July 10 - On the third day of the rescue operation, divers bring out the remaining four boys and their coach, ending an ordeal that lasted more than two weeks.