Tottenham forward Son Heung-Min says he was delighted to help South Korea beat Japan 2-1 to win the Asian Games, but would have played for the army team had he been made to do military service.
All able-bodied South Korean men must complete 21 months service in the military as a deterrent against the North, but exemptions are offered to athletes who win gold at the Asian Games or a medal of any colour at the Olympics.
“Of course I am in a better position now because I have won the Asian Games, but if not then there was the Korean army team for me,” he told the Daily Mirror. “Winning the Asian Games is about the most important thing I have achieved for my country and seeing the delight on the faces of the people back home is something that will last with me forever.
“No country has won it twice on the spin and we have been able to do it so I am happy for my country and very proud of South Korea and my teammates.”
Son, 26, clocked up almost 50,000 air miles this summer but is keen to repay Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino for his faith.
“Pochettino has been unbelievable for me in the small things and also the big things,” he said. “He has helped me a lot, even the decision to bring me in from Germany [when he signed from Bayer Leverkusen for €30m in August 2015] and give me a chance.
“He took a big risk on me to go for the Asian Games and when I returned he takes me in as if I never left. His attention to detail is unbelievable and that is why he is one of the best in the world.”