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Despite injury, Son Heung-Min ready to “take a risk” for the World Cup

Korea Republic Portraits - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Patrick Smith - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

I think it’s safe to say that if there’s one single Tottenham Hotspur player that we hope has a good experience in the World Cup this month, it’s Son Heung-Min. For starters, he’s just an all-around good human, but also he’s going into the competition with a literal broken face.

Sonny took a shoulder to the ol’ noggin in Spurs’ Champions League win at Marseille, and the injury ended up being a broken eye socket (in four places!) that required surgery. Thankfully that surgery went well and he’s been cleared to play for South Korea, albeit with a (totally bitchin’) mask.

Today, Sonny gave a really insightful interview with the Korean sports media (here reported in the Korea Joonang Daily) where he talked about his World Cup preparations with the Taeguk Warriors, wearing the mask, and what it means to participate in the World Cup despite the injury. In that interview he admits that he hasn’t tried to do any headers since he returned to training, that he might not play in every match for Korea, and that he’s comfortable with the level of risk at play when it comes to playing so soon after surgery.

“It’s hard to say much [about the injury] at this point because I’m not a doctor. I would be the first one to update you on my situation if knew anything. What I can tell you right now is that I will always do my best and that all footballers in every match play with some sort of risk. There’s always a risk of injury for us, even when you’re in a good condition. So I can’t guarantee right this moment that I will play every single match. I want to take it day at a time, step by step.

“Footballers inevitably take risks to play, it’s my decision to take that risk. I am willing to take that risk for the fans, to give them that excitement and hope.”

“I can’t head the ball yet and I haven’t tried yet. It’s only been 10 days since the surgery and that’s not a long time. I don’t have any problem with running. I trained with the club just two days before arriving here and I was able to complete my sprint training without any problems.”

Sonny was asked about his mask, and admitted that while some of the details are supposed to be secret, that it is in fact made of carbon fiber and is pretty comfortable. He also said the “Hamburgler” mask that he was photographed in yesterday might not be the one he wears when the World Cup starts — he was given several, and will be choosing the one that feels the most comfortable!

“It’s more comfortable than I was expecting. Although it does feel different from when I tried it on in the UK because of the weather. I think it was more comfortable there because I sweat more here due to the heat. I kept touching my mask during training to adjust it. I am still getting used to it but I was surprised at how comfortable it was.

“This is supposed to be a secret, but yes it’s made out of carbon-fiber so it’s very light and strong. I was actually really surprised at how light it was. I brought enough. Also, it’s not like they break and, if they do, then by that point I’m already clearly in a dangerous situation. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen. I think I’ll be trying on all the masks as they can be slightly different and figure out which one I am most comfortable with.”

Sonny’s acutely aware of how important the World Cup is to Korean football fans and his place in this particular South Korean squad. When asked about his goals, he didn’t shy away from the pressure of competing in what looks like a tough group. He seemed to hint that, at age 30, there’s no guarantee that he’s going to be selected for the Korean squad in 2024, so he’s focusing on doing as well as he can today.

“Everyone desperately wants to come to the World Cup. But wanting it is not enough. This is my third World Cup and I can say that I am as desperate as anyone else but I think the most important thing to do is prepare well. I don’t know what will happen in the future but from the first match to the last, I want to make the most of what I have and my aim is to make this World Cup special.”

Korea’s first match is on Thursday, November 24 when they face against Sonny’s Tottenham teammate Rodrigo Bentancur and Uruguay.