Rescued miner thanks Villa for support

One of the 33 miners who was rescued last week in Chile, former football player Franklin Lobos, has thanked Barcelona star David Villa for his support during the miners' ordeal underground. Villa, whose father and grandfather were miners, sent two signed Barcelona jerseys to the trapped miners last month.

"I have his jersey at the moment. That such important people, such important clubs, showed concern for us, I don't know how we can repay that in any way," Lobos told Spanish news radio Cadena Ser. "I want to thank Barcelona and Villa for the concern they showed. Villa was in permanent contact with my daughter," he added.

Lobos, 53, played for several Chilean teams between 1982 and 1995, including Deportes La Serena, Santiago Wanderers and Regional Atacama. He also played for the Chilean national team that qualified for the 1984 Olympic Football Tournament in Los Angeles. The former midfielder who was known for his thumping free-kicks was the driver of a truck that takes miners to and from the mine.

He and his 32 co-workers were caught in a cave-in on 5 August and survived on dwindling rations of food and water for 17 days until rescue crews drilled a tiny hole into the chamber where they had taken refuge. The 33 miners were finally hoisted up to the surface one by one in a mini-capsule last week after nearly 70 days over 600 metres (2,000 feet) underground. Lobos briefly bounced a football on his foot and knee after he stepped out of the capsule that had whisked him to safety.

"I have lived with uncertainty, hoping that everything would turn out well. It seemed that the rescue equipment was perfect, but in these situations there can always be complications," Villa told reporters after the rescue. "I'm happy that everything has gone well and everyone is now on the surface," added Villa, Spain's top scorer at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa.