Now they have new admirers to add to the list: world-famous football team Manchester United, who say they were helped to victory on Dec. 13th by the presence of 23 of the miners at their Premier League match against fellow British club Arsenal.
“To see you dancing and singing yesterday on the grandstand was fantastic,” said Manchester United Chief Executive Michael Gill to the miners the day after the match, according to news service Agencía EFE. “You played an important part in the victory against Arsenal.”
“I know Sir Alex (Manchester United’s coach) talked to the team about your story before the match,” he added.
Gill declared the rescue a “story of bravery, courage and teamwork,” and said: “These miners are a brilliant example of triumph against adversity.”
As they chatted, the men were decked out in United scarves and bore Premier League gift bags to take home for their families. Miners Raúl Bustos and Pedro Cortez thanked coach Alex Ferguson for the warm reception they received from him just before the match.
Speaking through an interpreter, Bustos and Cortez denied being ‘stars’. “We don’t feel like big stars, like the star footballers. We feel like normal people, just trying to represent Chile and the miners in Britain,” they said.
“I’m very proud to know that Alex (Ferguson) used our story to motivate the team,” said Cortez, who confessed he was a serious football fan, before heading into the stadium to mingle with the Arsenal players.
The miners’ trip was the brainchild of legendary former player Bobby Charlton, who currently holds a leading position on the team, and whose father was himself a miner.
Organized by Chilean winery Concha Y Toro, sponsors of Manchester United, the miners’ visit also included three days touring the city of Manchester before watching the football match live from the club’s famous Old Trafford stadium and meeting the players in the special VIP area.