“It happened in the evening,” he told the news conference. “We heard people speaking. We were not sure if it was a hallucination then we went quieter and realized it was real.”
The player said he was “startled” by the rescuer when he emerged from the water. “It was a miracle," he added. "It was the first glimpse of hope."
"I was afraid I wouldn't get home, that I would get scolded by my mother."
The boy said that he had been so hungry after being stranded for 10 days that he could "only think about food."
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The players and their 25-year-old coach were safely brought out of the Tham Luang mountain cave complex near the border with Myanmar last week after a perilous rescue operation that drew global media attention and hundreds of journalists to the scene.
The boys have been in the hospital in the northern town of Chiang Rai since they were rescued but have been pronounced generally healthy by doctors, aside from some minor infections.
“They are strong physically as well as mentally,” a spokesman told reporters, adding that they were all expected to return home later Wednesday. “Everybody has shown determination to face life in the future.”
The boys had planned to explore the cavern 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 flooded chamber several miles inside the complex. Rescuers then had to figure out how to get them out through the tunnels, some of which were full of fast-flowing floodwaters.
The players said they had not taken food with them as they did not expect to be in the cave for long. They survived by drinking water from stalactites.
One said he was initially only concerned with being late getting home. "I was afraid I wouldn't get home, that I would get scolded by my mother," the boy joked.
Passakorn Bunyalak, deputy governor of the province of Chiang Rai, said the boys would be sent home after the news conference and he was requesting that their parents and journalists hold off interviews for about 30 days.
"At this early stage, we are trying to get media not to bother the boys," he told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that they were protected by Thailand's Child Protection Act, which protects those under 18 from media coverage that would cause emotional injury.