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Two boys who are part of the team but did not enter the cave told ABC News before the rescue operation that "Ake" had taken them into the cave many times in the past as a sort of rite of passage and team-building exercise.

The Wild Boars junior football team are now in hospital after spending 18 days trapped within the Tham Luang cave system. The success of the rescue operation has even stunned its architects - expert divers who battled muddy, rushing floodwaters for days to reach the group and eventually extract them. It took 10 days before the boys were located and another week before the miraculous rescue brought each of them to safety.

The boys, rescued a week ago after more than two weeks trapped in the partially flooded cave, remain quarantined in a hospital in Chiang Rai.

"All cried and expressed their condolences by writing messages on a drawing of Lieutenant Commander Saman and observed one minute of silence for him", Jedsada Chokdamrongsuk, permanent secretary for public health, said in the statement.

"They also thanked him and promised to be good boys", the statement said.

He warned relatives of the boys to resist giving interviews to media over fears they could have a negative impact on their mental health.

But while the group is good health, they still face challenges.

The boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach had planned to explore the Tham Luan Nang Non cave complex for about an hour after practice June 23.

Hundreds of mourners paid their respects to the 37-year-old at a special ceremony attended by high ranking military officials and a representative of the king at the Wat Ban Nong Khu temple in his home town of Chatuphak Piman yesterday (Sat).

He was ordered the Knight Grand Cross (First Class) and given the medal of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant.

The search and rescue teams sedated and transported them in stretchers underwater while navigating the flooded sections towards the exit.

However, in the aftermath of the courageous rescue effort, Lieutenant Commander Saman's widow, Valeepoan Kunan, said: "I want to tell the boys, please don't blame yourselves".

Several were also reported earlier to be recovering from minor lung and middle ear infections. I am very thank you for help me. "Thank you [everyone] who support us and every ministry that help me". "Who will I kiss?"