South Korea forward Son Heung-min is set to be absent from the first two matches of January 2019’s Asian Cup in the UAE under a compromise agreed with Tottenham Hotspur to release him for this month’s 2018 Asian Games, the Korea Football Association (KFA) announced on Wednesday.
Son, 26, must win an international tournament to likely earn an exemption from military service.
This has seen a consensus reached with Mauricio Pochettino’s side that he will fly to Indonesia for Asia’s mini-Olympics after the Premier League opener against Newcastle United on August 11. His employers had initially requested to keep the attacker until August 18, when they play London rivals Fulham.
That would have meant he missed the group stages for the event, in which the football runs from August 14-September 2.
Spurs relented from this position and green-lighted a deal that will rule Son out of his nation’s Asian Cup opening pair of Group C fixtures. These will be against the Philippines on January 7 and Kyrgyzstan on January 11, plus he’ll also not be present for a friendly in November.
There are precedents for footballers being granted exemptions from South Korea’s 21-month military service. This occurred in 2002 after the Taeguk Warriors reached the semi-finals of the 2002 World Cup and when they won gold, again on home soil, at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon.
Son missed out on this latter triumph when then side Bayer Leverkusen refused to release him.
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