It’s official — Son Heung-Min’s summer of international football is going to be longer than usual. Today, the Korea Football Association announced its roster for the Asian Games in Indonesia, and as expected, Sonny was the headliner.
As it stands now, this summer’s Asian Games, which kicks off August 18 and runs through September 2, is the last chance for Sonny to earn an exemption from having to complete a two year mandatory service with the South Korean military. Should Korea win a gold medal at the Games, he will be automatically exempted along with the rest of his teammates. Otherwise he will need to report for duty before the end of 2019.
The Asian Games are basically the AFC Olympics, and like the Olympics feature competitions in a wide variety of sports, including football. The Asfootball tournament is basically a U23 competition, but there are three slots that can be used for overage players. Sonny is one of those players, along with goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo and forward Hwang Ui-jo.
The Asian Games is not, however, considered part of the FIFA calendar, which means that Tottenham Hotspur letting Son go is an implicit understanding that this is his last chance to earn an exemption which would otherwise cause him to miss two years of his prime playing career.
The good news for Korea is that Hwang Hee-chan, another starter for Korea at this summer’s World Cup and a forward for Red Bull Salzburg, is also on the roster. Korea won the previous Asian Games in 2014, which took place in Incheon, South Korea, and should be among the favorites to win the competition.
According to the Korea Herald, the South Korea squad will meet on July 31, which will give Sonny a couple of weeks of rest and recuperation. The squad will have a friendly vs. Iraq before heading to Indonesia for pre-Games preparations in early August.