SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Talk about high-stakes soccer. Chile’s 33 rescued miners jokingly faced banishment back to their underground prison on Monday after losing a game to a team led by President Sebastian Pinera.
After the miners’ stunning rescue in mid-October, Pinera challenged the men to a soccer match, vowing the winners would stay in the presidential palace and the losers would head down the mine.
“We made a bet and as men we have to honor that bet and be true to our word,” a grinning Pinera told rescued miner Franklin Lobos, a former soccer star who watched videos of Pele and Maradona while trapped underground. “We will have to rescue you guys again.”
After taking a 2-0 lead, the miners — still recovering from their two-month ordeal — ran out of steam in the second half, allowing Pinera’s team of cabinet members and rescue workers to come back hard for a 3-2 win.
“The miners are great players ... but they’re a bit out of shape,” Pinera joked.
The miners have kept silent about the most harrowing details after initially surviving on mouthfuls of tinned tuna and sips of milk for more than two weeks until supplies began coming from the surface through a narrow shaft.
The men, who range from a first-time miner to a Bolivian migrant and a marathon-runner, have been flown to Europe to appear on television shows and are negotiating lucrative book deals and appearances on U.S. talks shows.
While the miners are recovering physically, psychologists warn the fallout from their newfound fame could drag on for months or even years.
Reporting by Alonso Soto; Editing by Simon Gardner and John O'Callaghan