Tottenham Hotspur star and Premier League golden boot winner Son Heung-Min may have been overlooked by England’s PFA Award shortlists this week, but he’s getting a huge adulation in his home country of South Korea. Today, Sonny was honored in Seoul with the Cheongnyong Medal, the highest sports merit award in South Korea, for his achievements in football. He was given the award by South Korea president Yoon Suk-yeol in an on-pitch ceremony just prior to Korea’s home friendly against Brazil at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
In a written statement presented to Son ahead of the ceremony, President Yoon commended him for becoming the first Asian footballer to win the Premier League Golden Boot, among other achievements.
“I believe this award is the result of your passion after having devoted yourself and worked endlessly for your team all season. (The title) is not only a personal honor for you but a joyous occasion to be celebrated by the entire Asian football community.”
This itself is also unusual — the Cheongnyong Medal is usually bestowed by the Minister of Culture, but President Yoon opted to award it to Sonny personally. According to World Soccer Talk, Son accepted the award in a dark suit in front of a cheering crowd of South Korea football fans, which included a banner that read “We are living in the era of world-class Son Heung-Min.”
Son maintains a level of fame in his native country that rivals that of actors and K-Pop stars. Primarily due to his achievements, football is hugely popular in Korea, and Tottenham is by far the country’s most popular team. Spurs are planning a preseason tour to Korea in July where they will play matches against Sevilla, as well as a team of Korean all-stars.