‘DON’T GET CHEATED’

Many will take ad­van­tage of you, Chilean min­ers warn Thai foot­ball team

New Straits Times - - WORLD -

GUARD against ex­ploita­tion: that’s the mes­sage Chilean min­ers have of­fered the 12 Thai boys and their foot­ball coach fol­low­ing the har­row­ing or­deal of spend­ing 18 days trapped in a cave.

Be­fore even the clothes of the Wild Boar foot­ball team play­ers had dried fol­low­ing the last dra­matic es­cape from the flooded cave on Tues­day, plans were al­ready made to turn their heroic tale into a Hol­ly­wood movie.

Eight years ago, 33 Chilean min­ers were stuck un­der­ground for 69 days af­ter a cave-in, be­fore their tor­ment was turned into a mo­tion pic­ture star­ring An­to­nio Ban­deras.

But al­though The 33 grossed US$25 mil­lion (RM100 mil­lion) at the box of­fice, the min­ers never saw a penny of that.

“Hope­fully, they’ll make a film, a tele­vi­sion se­ries, a best-sell­ing novel, but that they do it well, that they are smart and don’t get taken for a ride by fraud­sters,” said Mario Sepul­veda, who was played by Ban­deras in The 33.

The boys are aged 11 to 16 and even their coach is only 25, whereas the Chilean min­ers were all grown men.

Many of them have suf­fered ter­ri­bly since their trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence in the San Jose mine in the Ata­cama desert.

“The im­por­tant thing is that the au­thor­i­ties and their fam­i­lies pro­tect these kids be­cause many peo­ple want to take ad­van­tage,” said Luis Urzua, an­other miner.

On Tues­day night, the man­ag­ing part­ner of United States faith-based pro­duc­tion house Pure Flix, Michael Scott, re­vealed on Twit­ter his plans to turn the story into a film.

But be­fore wor­ry­ing about how to sell their sto­ries, Urzua warns that re­cov­er­ing from “the ex­pe­ri­ence of a life­time” won’t be easy. There is bit­ter­ness at hav­ing been ex­ploited by lawyers, pro­duc­ers and oth­ers who wanted to ben­e­fit from their story. An­other miner, Jose Ojeda, had to be ad­mit­ted to a psy­chi­atric hospi­tal.

“Once they’d got the in­for­ma­tion off us, they dis­ap­peared.”

Urzua said they were badly ad­vised and fell for prom­ises they would be made mil­lion­aires, so “ceded all (in­tel­lec­tual) rights for life”. He is among a group of min­ers who want to re­scind that de­ci­sion. De­spite spend­ing more than two months 600m be­low the sur­face, “we can’t even sell one line of the 33”, he lamented.

Urzua said the min­ers never re­ceived a penny from the film, di­rected by Mex­i­can Pa­tri­cia Riggen, or the book writ­ten by Los An­ge­les Times jour­nal­ist Hector To­bar.

“They de­stroyed us,” said Urzua, who praised the pro­tec­tive cir­cle that had en­veloped the Thai boys.

Urzua said all he got was “less” than the five mil­lion pe­sos (less than RM32,000 in to­day’s ex­change rate) that Chilean busi­ness­man Leonardo Farkas handed each miner.

Sepul­veda, though, had faith in the Thai foot­ballers, say­ing the “strength of these boys is dif­fer­ent to ours”.

“If they keep train­ing, they’ll han­dle it re­ally well, as long as they stick to­gether,” he said.

REUTERS PIC

Class­mates re­act­ing at Mae Sai Pr­a­sit­sart school af­ter their teacher an­nounced that the 12 school­boys trapped in a flooded cave have been res­cued in Chi­ang Rai re­cently.

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