Son Heung-min has been in terrific form for Tottenham Hotspur this season and if the club are to keep hold of the forward, they have a massive decision to make in the summer.
Spurs signed the South Korean back in 2015 from Bayer Leverkusen. He endured a hot and cold first season in England but since August 2016, the forward has been a fantastic player for Spurs, winning them a lot of games and earning a lot of praise for his vital contributions.
However, there comes a barrier in Son’s path to success – the Korean government. According to a report by Asia Times, males from South Korea usually have to join the military service by the time they are 28.
Just when the 25-year-old nippy forward is starting to dazzle at Spurs, he faces the prospect of a 21-month period back home with the K-League’s army team Sangju Sangmu.
“Military service may not be ideal for professional football players and their careers but that is the reality,” Steve Kim, former head of club competitions of the Asian Football Confederation, told Asia Times.
“Everyone knows that it is better for Son if he does not have to do it but there is nothing the Korea FA can do about this. He has to be treated like any other athlete.”
However, there is hope for Son. South Korea co-hosted the 2002 World Cup and reached the semi-finals. The players not only received praise from the nation but also military exemption.
While Son is set to spearhead South Korea’s attack in the World Cup in Russia, a similar result is highly unlikely; however, the real opportunity arrives in August.
The 2018 Asian Games will take place in Jakarta and if the Korean football team can win the tournament, they will be exempted from military service for the government.
Although the tournament is reserved for Under-23 players, each coach will have the privilege to select over-age players and as the country’s best player, there is no doubt Son will be selected by coach Kim Hak-bum.
The problem for us is his availability as the Asian Games will run during Spurs’ domestic season and the North London side will have a massive decision to take later this year.
“I’m going to pick him unless there’s a special situation,” coach Kim added. “Son is the kind of a player who needs to be taken care of. We need to see till the end whether he can actually join our team or not, but I believe there’s not going to be a big problem.
“The selection issue is not only important for the player, but also for the club.”
It is understood that the Korean FA has already started discussing the issue with Spurs and let’s hope our club takes the gamble of allowing Son to play for his country so that he helps his country win gold in Jakarta, eventually facing the possibility of receiving the military exemption.