A victory for Chile, but not for its miners

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The Independent US

It was 16 men against 16, and the referee blew for full-time after just 40 minutes. But the players had an excuse for being a bit unfit: most of them had only recently emerged from spending 69 days trapped inside a collapsed mine.

The 33 miners who were rescued in Chile almost two weeks ago travelled to Santiago yesterday to play a game of football against a team of their rescuers, captained by the country's President, Sebastian Piñera.

Led by Franklin Lobos, a former professional who won several international caps during the 1980s, Team Esperanza – Spanish for "hope" – was beaten, by three goals to two. Though all of "Los 33" have made a full recovery from their ordeal, they were allowed to use rolling substitutions, to help them keep up with their opponents, who included the mining minister Laurence Golborne and several of their rescuers.

Despite the supposed advantage, Team Esperanza – whose players ranged in age from 19 to 63 – was unable to prevent the winning goal in the friendly, played at Chile's national stadium, being slotted home by Pinera.

Earlier in the day, the men had been presented with a special medal marking the 200th anniversary of Chile's independence, which fell while they were trapped inside the San Jose mine in the desert near Copiapo.

The game was arranged after the men were saved from underground, when rescuers visited them at the hospital in Copiapo. At the time, the President joked that the winners would get to sleep in La Mondea (the Presidential palace) for the night, while the losers would go back down the mine.