From cutting his teeth in the Bundesliga to reaching a consistently world-class level at English Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur, the rise of Son Heung-min has been meteoric. The South Korean soccer player is not one to bask in the limelight.
Surrounded by the Premier League’s glitz, glamour, and extravaganza, Son is a steadfast beacon of hard work and humility. We look back on the story of Son Heung-min’s childhood, who lived with the phrase ‘hard work‘ etched in his brain from a young age.
Son Heung-min Childhood And Development
Son Heung-min was born in Chuncheon, Gangwon, on 8 July 1992.
Heung-min Son graduated from Buancho. Just looking at his elementary school graduation photos is not unusual. Unlike his friends, who wear ordinary clothes, he is alone in the uniform of the national football team at the time.
Every day, the young boy would play soccer in Gongjicheon. Even at the end of his graduation album, Heung Min Son wrote, “I will work hard and study hard.”
His development is due to the unique guidance of his father, Son Woong-jung, the general manager of the ‘Son Woong-jung Soccer Academy‘.
Son Heung-min trained at the Gongjicheon Stadium in Chuncheon every day after completing classes in Buancho. Coach Son said, “There is a training program that I developed myself. Heung-min also learned the basics of soccer through this training.”
Heung-Min Son learned individual skills from his father, general manager Son, before joining the academy soccer team. Son’s father, who felt skeptical about the existing hagwon soccer, created the educational method is unique. The focus is on the player. The coach does the chores.
Even if the ball goes out, the coach picks it up. Athletes have created an environment where they can only focus on training. He always works out with the ball, and there is no physical training.
They do not emphasize discipline, such as aligning lines like other teams. Director Sohn revealed his philosophy, “If you emphasize discipline, you cannot cultivate creativity.” Son Heung-min’s bouncing play was also learned during this period.
Hupyeong Middle School
Heung-Min Son went on to Hupyeong Middle School, where no soccer club existed. In 2005, he represented the school in the Gangwon Provincial Sports Festival, where he lost 4-0 to Yukminkwan with the soccer team.
Kim Mun-kyung, the vice principal of Yuk Min-kwan, who was in charge of the soccer team, recalled, “Heung-min came to me and said that he wanted to join the Yuk-min-kwan. He was a boy with a strong desire to win.” At that time, the soccer team was coached by Na Seung-hwa, manager of Yuk Min-gwan High School.
Director Na made a name for himself as a youth academy representative along with Hwang Seon-hong , manager of the Pohang Steelers, during his soccer career.
He gave Son Heung-min the number 9 jersey and showed anticipation. Heung-Min Son, who had only been doing personal training, was to experience soccer played with 11 players.
Manager Na said, “The first time I saw Heung-min, he had excellent individual skills, but he lacked teamwork using his teammates. We emphasized team play to him,” he said.
Heung-Min Son was selected as a KFA scholarship student and joined Hamburg, Germany.
The Golden Boy Of Korea
Inspired by his compatriots Park Ji-sung and Lee Chung-yong, Son went to Europe very young. He joined Bundesliga giant Hamburger SV at 16.
Despite his tender age, it was clear that HSV had an exceptional talent on its hands. Son Heung-min broke into the first team as an 18-year-old and became increasingly influential over the coming seasons, eventually moving to Bayer Leverkusen.
Fast, skillful, comfortable with both feet, and able to be utilized anywhere in the attack, he soon attracted clubs abroad. North London club Tottenham Hotspur snapped him up in 2015 for $33 million, a record fee for an Asian player. It is reported he currently earns £200,000 per week.
Early homesickness notwithstanding, Son Heung-min has gone from strength to strength in England. He has developed into an elite finisher, massively outperforming his expected goals this season. He has been the Premier League’s record highest scoring Asian player since surpassing Park Ji-sung’s tally of 19 in late 2017.
Media Circus Around Son Heung-min
Back in his native South Korea, Son Heung-min has already transcended the levels of reverence enjoyed by the players he once idolized. Yet, such is his stardom that the media coverage of his exploits in Europe and the national team is almost nauseatingly obsessive.
From Seoul to Hamburg and from Los Angeles to London, Koreans everywhere, local or in diaspora, try to keep tabs on their golden boy. Occasionally, a few adventurous supporters travel halfway across the globe to watch him up close.
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His determined work ethic and exuberant attitude make him the ideal poster boy for South Korean soccer, and even if he tries his best to avoid the spotlight, it follows him wherever he goes. Tottenham’s Korean footballer is undoubtedly aware of his fame, but he keeps his head down and is still keen to improve.
Football comes first, and everything else is secondary. In a business dominated by money and prominent personalities, Son Heung-min is a somewhat unconventional megastar.
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