The 13 members of a Thai youth soccer team currently trapped deep inside a flooded cave have been invited by FIFA president Gianni Infantino to attend the World Cup final in Moscow later this month.
“On behalf of the international football community, I would like to join you in expressing my deepest sympathies and support to the families of the players and coach, as well as my solidarity with the people of Thailand at this time of great concern,” Infantino wrote in a letter to the Thai Football Association.
“If, as we all hope, they are reunited with their families in the coming days and their health allows them to travel, Fifa would be delighted to invite them to attend the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow as our guests,” Infantino added.
The team (12 players between 11 and 16 years old, and their 25-year-old coach) has been trapped inside the cave for 13 days. They were found Monday by British divers after being trapped inside without food for nine days.
Crews have since worked around the clock to pump water out of the vast cave network in hopes of lowering the water level far enough for the boys to wade out. But with more heavy rains forecasted in the coming days, rescuers are attempting to teach the boys basic scuba techniques in the event they need to dive out. The way out is a difficult dive with many narrow passages through muddy water.
A Thai navy SEAL died Friday when he ran out of oxygen in the cave.
Rescuers had considered leaving the team in the cave until the waters receded naturally—which could take as long as four months, until the end of the rainy season—but now say that is not an option as oxygen levels in the cave have dropped.