The Son Heung-min route to successJANG JU-YOUNG
The author is a national news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
On May 22, a new chapter in Korean football history was written. Son Heung-min won the Golden Boot, the award given to the top scorer in the Premier League. Son, who appeared in the last match of the league between Tottenham and Norwich City, scored two goals, his 22nd and 23rd, and shared the top scorer title with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
Son is the first Korean, and indeed the first Asian, to ever win the Golden Boot. He is also the only Asian player to win the top scorer title in any of Europe’s five big leagues.
The final goal that determined the top scorer was especially impressive. In the 75th minute of the game, Son picked up a deflection just outside of the box. He brought the ball down to his feet, turned to his left to avoid a defender and hammered the ball over the crowded box.
The ball flew in a beautiful curve and landed perfectly in the top right corner. Premier League stadiums are often filled with booing when the away team scores, but the perfect goal only made the Norwich supporters sigh.
We’ve seen this many times before. The goal came from the so-called “Son Heung-min zone.” Son displays outstanding determination from the left and right edge of the box, and is equally skilled at using his left and right feet.
His first and last goals of the season came from this Son Heung-min zone. British newspaper The Evening Standard called that last goal a well-wound shot, also a Son trademark.
Not many players dare to kick from the Son Heung-min zone. Opponents would often think, “No way from this far,” and step back to defend. It is quite far, and the chance of scoring a goal is low. What is Son’s secret? Unfortunately, there is no secret other than hard work.
That’s exactly what Son said. In an interview with JTBC in January 2021, he said, “I was not good at shooting from that position from the beginning. I’ve trained a lot there. That is nothing other than hard work.”
Many people say they earned courage and confidence from Son’s success, especially young people who are struggling with the pandemic and employment. But there is one message that we all need to remember. No matter how talented you are naturally, it is hard to build your own area of success if you don’t put in the hard work. Son is the proof of this simple truth.