In a miraculous tale of survival – the rescue of 12 young boys from Thai football team and their football coach from a flooded cave, had the eyes and ears of the world glued to their story.
Although the focus of most news was on the rescue of those trapped in the cave itself, many are still curious about why they had taken the risk to venture into the cave to begin with.
Besides the fact that caves are widely known to be dangerous, the idea that heavy rainfall was still ongoing only added to the level of risk the team would be forced to face.
To further add onto their situation, it was monsoon season in Thailand.
It was a perfect storm – a concoction of factors that would have definitely turned deadly.
How It All Began
On 23 July 2018, 12 teenage boys and their football coach entered the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand during heavy rainfall after their scheduled practice session had ended.
It was on that same night that they were reported missing by one of the mothers after her son did not return home.
Bicycles were found locked to a fence. Similarly, the shoes and football boots of the boys were found by local officials near the entrance of the cave.
But, just why did they decide to venture into the Tham Luang cave?
The reason why they entered the cave lies in something so innocent and widely practiced all around the world – to fulfil an initiation ceremony that was common for local young boys.
It all started on the night of one of the members, Peerapat’s 17th birthday. Turning 17 is a milestone that most teenagers believe should be celebrated in style.
His family had prepared a strikingly bright yellow SpongeBob SquarePants birthday cake and numerous brightly wrapped presents awaiting his return from spending time with his friends from the same football team called the Wild Boars.
After their practice session had ended, the entire team decided to race through rice paddies on their bicycles despite heavy rainfall that affected the forested hills.
A favourite spot for the team, they often frequent the Tham Luang cave as the boys love to explore every single detail of the mountain range, often venturing as far as 8km into the cave that towers over the province of Mae Sai.
According to Ben Reymenants, one of the rescue divers involved in the rescue operation, the boys had decided to leave all their belongings at the cave entrance “before wading in and trying to go to the end of the tunnel”.
They were tasked to write their names on the walls of the cave. The team only had their torches with them as they intended to stay within the cave for roughly an hour only. Unfortunately, a flood caused by the sudden and heavy rain locked them in.
The Dangers of Initiation Rituals
Initiation rituals are evidently still practised across the globe.
From a traditional ceremony that first took place centuries ago to an oath that school children swear to abide by, initiations are not uncommon.
However, we must be resilient and ensure that these mostly harmless activities do not take an unfortunate turn.