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POST TIME: 3 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Asian gold spares Son from military duty
AFP

Asian gold spares Son from military duty

South Korea’s Son Heung Min (L) fights for the ball with Japan’s Kou Itakura (R) in the men’s gold medal football match at the 2018 Asian Games in Bogor on Saturday. AFP PHOTO

AFP, JAKARTA: Son Heung-min will rejoin his Tottenham Hotspur team-mates next week buzzing after his emotional rollercoaster ride at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

The decision by Spurs to release Son for a far-flung, under-23 tournament already looks like a shrewd piece of business after he led South Korea to a gold medal that spares him a career-threatening stint of military service.

One of three permitted over-age players in the Korean squad, the 26-year-old forward recently signed a new five-year deal with the London club and was quick to thank Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino after a 2-1 extra-time win over Japan on Saturday.

“Normally that’s not an easy decision. I would have felt very sorry if I didn’t win the gold medal,” he added, after escaping almost two years of compulsory military service.

“I really want to say thank you to the coach, the players and fans of Spurs. They are so special.”

Son’s plight has captured the hearts of Spurs fans, who have taken to social media in their thousands to wish the player luck in Indonesia.

Nearly every able-bodied South Korean male is required to perform 21 months of military service before the age of 28, although the government rewards Asian Games gold medals and Olympic medals of any colour with an exemption.

“I’m so grateful for all the support,” said Son, who will have missed at least three games at the start of the Premier League season to play the Asian Games.

Hugely popular at Spurs, Son joked before the final that he was upset team-mates Harry Kane and Dele Alli hadn’t texted.

With the weight of the world lifted from his shoulders after overcoming Japan, he revealed that he was still waiting.