Son Heung-Min might just be the archetype of the perfect gentleman-athlete. In fact, if he has a flaw, it might just be that he’s TOO nice, too good a teammate, wears his heart too much on his sleeve.
Son spoke openly about leaving Tottenham to participate in the Asian Games later this month before last night’s friendly against AC Milan. He even apologized to his teammates, though he’s only leaving in order to win something for his country and get himself exempted from a two year military service that would cut short his football career in his prime.
“I feel sorry because Tottenham is my team and I feel very sorry to be leaving my teammates. I am playing for my country and that is also important, but honestly I feel very sorry about that. That is what I feel.
“We can talk about [the national service] afterwards. We haven’t won it already. We are going there to win something, and winning trophies for my country is always good. I don’t travel there for nothing.”
No, Sonny! Don’t apologize! We understand, really! Tottenham also understands — the club was under no obligation to let him go, much like Bayer Leverkusen refused to let him go for the last Asian Games — a competition that Korea won, exempting most of Sonny’s contemporaries. That Spurs are letting him leave for the beginning part of the Premier League season represents both an acknowledgement that this is Son’s last chance to avoid military service, and also an understanding of just how important this is to him. It’s a good decision for the club, even if it hurts them in the short term.
Sonny was one of the rare World Cup players on Tottenham’s squad who traveled with the team to the USA for their preseason tour. He’s obviously trying to stay in shape and match fit for the upcoming Asian Games. Sonny previously stated that he would be in attendance for Spurs’ opening Premier League fixture at Newcastle before flying out to Indonesia to join his Korean teammates.