The Chilean miners trapped underground for two months earlier this year will be guests of honour at Manchester United’s top-of-the-table clash with Arsenal.
Sir Bobby Charlton, whose father was a miner in Northumberland, welcomed the men to Old Trafford on Sunday, saying: “You took it in your stride and the whole world was very proud of you.”
The BBC reported that Omar Reygadas, a 56-year-old bulldozer operator, said: “It’s an honour to be at Old Trafford. It’s the theatre of dreams and we have only seen it on television.”
He jokingly challenged United to a game, saying: “We have got enough footballers to make a team and maybe play Manchester United.”
At least some of the men are believed to be fans of United and they will get VIP access to meet Sir Alex Ferguson and his players before the match, before taking their seats in the directors’ box.
The trip was suggested by Old Trafford legend Sir Bobby and is being organised by Chilean wine producer Concha Y Toro, which sponsors United.
The miners were dramatically rescued in October when, one by one, they were brought back to the surface in a capsule after spending two months underground.
The story made headlines across the globe and two of the men have said that plans for a film chronicling their ordeal in the South American country are moving fast.
Sir Bobby, a director at the football club, suggested the miners see a United game when he visited Chile in the autumn.