Son poised for big role with national football teamSon Heung-min of Hamburg SV is having an impressive rookie season in the German Bundesliga. After suffering an injury during preseason, the 18-year-old forward recovered to score three goals in seven games.
Son has been pegged as one of the top young footballers in the league by the German media. He returned to Korea on Monday to participate in the national football team training camp in Seogwipo, Jeju Island.
A former member of the U-17 national squad, Son was included on national team manager Cho Kwang-rae’s 47-man preliminary roster for the 2011 Asian Cup in January. Although Son is still a young and developing player, Cho has already tapped Son to be a key component of the national team when it competes in the 2014 World Cup.
Q. This is your first time back in Korea in several months. How do you feel?
A. It’s my first time back since I departed for Germany in June after being notified that I had been promoted to the Bundesliga. A lot has happened since then. I suffered a big injury and also scored some goals. It feels a bit odd to be included on the national team preliminary roster.
How are football fans treating you in Korea?
Am I that popular here? I didn’t notice. In fact, not a single person noticed me from Incheon Airport to Dongdaemun (in central Seoul), where I went to shop for football gear.
Do you get recognized in Germany?
I do get noticed when I walk the streets. But it’s not burdensome or anything. I think they just see me as one of the many professional football players in the country. I frequently visit football shops in Hamburg without much trouble.
How do you usually spend your free time in Germany?
I play football nearly every day. I also play (video) games and eat Korean ramen with defender Muhamed Besic. We usually play football (video) games. I once made it into the top 100 online rankings in EA Sports’ FIFA game.
What else do you do other than play games?
I pass time by watching reruns of Korean television shows. The Internet speed is a bit slower than what I’m used to in Korea, so I start downloading files before heading out for practice and watch them in the evening.
Your friendship with Dutch forward Ruud van Nistelrooy received a lot of attention in the Korean media.
Some doubt whether we’re really friends, but we are and he gives me a lot of good advice. He sometimes talks about Park Ji-sung (van Nistelrooy’s former teammate at Manchester United). He refers to Park as a monster for the relentless way in which he runs around the pitch. I’m also close to Croatian forward Mladen Petric.
Can you describe some of your other teammates?
Left fullback Ze Roberto and right midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa are on the quiet side so I didn’t get much chance to talk to them yet. The most intimidating figure on the squad is goalkeeper Frank Rost. He tends to scream at players when they make defensive lapses. I used to get startled, but I’m getting used to it.
Who is the most difficult player to face in the Bundesliga?
I’ve yet to face him, but I think Philipp Lahm of Bayern Munich would be the most difficult player to face in the league. He is a quick and intelligent player who can be tough to face in one-on-one situations.
You’re set to join the national team training camp this afternoon. Are you looking forward to meeting any of the players at the camp?
I’m looking forward to meeting Yoo Byung-soo of Incheon United since he led the K-League in scoring this season. I want to learn a few tricks from Yoo. I also heard that Koo Ja-cheol is an accurate passer. Since I’ve never met any of them before, I look forward to training with them.
By Kim Hwan [email@example.com]