Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Father Would Always Say: 'This Is Our Dream, to Play in Europe.' He Still Does. EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW HEUNG-MIN SON

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

My Father Would Always Say: 'This Is Our Dream, to Play in Europe.' He Still Does. EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW HEUNG-MIN SON

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Collomosse Football Correspondent

AFTER every match he plays, Heung-Min Son analyses his performance in minute detail with the man he calls his coach, his friend and his teacher.

That man is not Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, but Son's father, Woong-Jung Son. Woong-Jung was a professional himself an attacker like his boy before injury halted his career in 1990, at the age of 28. Since then, he has set his mind to helping Son achieve the dreams that he could not.

Son lives with his parents in an apartment in Barnet, close to Tottenham's training ground in Enfield. From early childhood, Woong-Jung taught him the importance of using his left foot as well as his right. Son repeated shooting and passing drills and today he even believes that he strikes the ball better with his left foot than his right.

Woong-Jung watched compatriot Cha Bum-Kun, possibly the finest Asian player of all time, playing in the Bundesliga for Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen and dreamed of emulating him. The injury cut short those ambitions; instead, Son realised them, moving to Germany at 16 and playing impressively for Hamburg and Leverkusen before joining Tottenham in 2015.

"He is my friend, my teacher, my coach and he can still be my dad outside football," said Son. "I can still remember when he asked me for the first time, as a child in South Korea, whether I really wanted to have a career in football.

"Football is in my blood. I learned to walk, and then I saw a ball and just kicked it. I wasn't interested in computer games or playing with toy cars, just football and I was 100 per cent sure I wanted to play professionally.

"He was happy but he said: 'Are you sure? It is very tough. Do you understand?' He told me how difficult it would be, mentally and physically. I said it didn't matter. I knew I could play football and make everyone happy. He is very proud of me, and without him I wouldn't be here.

"He gave me my attitude, helped me with so many things. He still lives with me and comes to every home game. After the matches we talk about certain bad situations, some positive things, and what I can do better.

"When he was playing, the Bundesliga was more popular in South Korea than English football. He would watch the games and it was his dream to play there.

"So when I started to play in Germany, he would always say: 'This is our dream, to play in Europe.' He still does. I am still not the best player but I want to fulfil his dream of playing here."

Despite protesting that he is "not famous", Son is perhaps the world's best Asian footballer and is a superstar in South Korea, where he often needs to hide his identity when he goes out with friends or family.

He neither courts nor shuns the attention of his countrymen, but the adulation has stunned team-mates. …

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