This photo tweeted by Elon Musk shows efforts underway to rescue trapped members of a youth soccer team from a flooded cave in northern Thailand. Musk tweeted early Tuesday, July 10, 2018, he has visited the cave and has left a mini-submarine there for future use. (Courtesy of Elon Musk via AP)
EDITOR'S VIEW - In the past three weeks or so, the world has been enthralled by the Soccer World Cup in Russia. This is no surprise - in a global census undertaken by Fifa, the sports governing body, it was estimated that 265 million people play football along with more than 5 million referees. The participants translate to 4% of the world’s population, thus cementing football’s place at the summit of the world’s most popular sports.

Yet, while the matches have been unfolding, another unplanned event has had millions of television viewers and newspaper readers transfixed.

This is the drama of the football team consisting of 12 young soccer players and their coach in Thailand who were exploring the Tham Luang Cave in Chiang Rai and in the process found themselves trapped by raging underground floodwaters.

The world has watched for two weeks as the hapless footballers awaited rescue from the cave complex in northern Thailand.

Four of the boys were rescued on Sunday, and another four pulled to safety on Monday.

The Thai Navy SEALs have posted a jubilant message to their official Facebook page, saying yesterday’s rescue effort would take longer than the others but that they’d celebrate once all the boys and their coach were out of the cave.

And, hallelujah, late yesterday afternoon it was mission accomplished: all 12 players and their team had been extracted from the flooded cave system.

The drama in Thailand has again reminded us of the never-say-die spirit of human endeavour.

That as crises often do, this harrowing drama had the effect of unifying all.

The 13 hadn’t seen the outside world or another human being in 10 days, having been trapped by the sudden gush of floodwaters into the cave.

As news broke of the discovery of their location by British divers, there was celebration around the globe by those who had been following the mission’s progress.

The search had been unspeakably gruelling, beset by heavy rain and muddy, fast-moving waters. The water-filled passages with zero-visibility were straight out of hell. Due to the danger posed by the lack of oxygen, and narrow, twisting, inundated tunnels - it’s a miracle the boys were found and pulled to safety.

Fifa’s president Gianni Infantino had invited them to attend the World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday if they were recovered in time.

We say, why not?

The Mercury