Son avoids military service as Korea win gold at Asian Games

Flagbearers Lim Yung-hui and Ju Kyong-chol of Unified Korea lead their contingent. Beawiharta Reuters

Tottenham Hotspur striker Son Heung-min's professional career received a boost in the form of military exemption when South Korea won the Asian Games football gold yesterday.

The 26-year-old featured in South Korea's 2-1 extra time victory on Saturday night as goals from Lee Seungwoo and Hwang Heechan saw them lift the trophy. But without the Korean people behind us we couldn't win this tournament.

Son's addition in the squad - he's one of three overage players allowed under the Games' Olympic-like rules - was a lucky get-out for the pacy forward after he missed his chance for exemption in 2014, when the South Korean team also won Asian Games gold. "Of course when I see the people support me, I want to give something back and this is the best present for my life".

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Athletes who win gold at the Asian Games - silver or bronze is not enough - are exempt from the service, which lasts at least 21 months, meaning it was a narrow escape for captain Son and his team-mates.

Son didn't score in the final, but his influence was undeniable, rather unwittingly setting up Lee Seung-Woo's opener in the 93rd minute.

Spurs only released their forward to compete as one of three permitted over-age players at the far-flung, under-23 tournament because he pleaded with the London club.

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Heung-Min Son and his South Korea teammates have done it.

Salzburg's Hee Chan Hwang added a second following an assist from Son, before Ayase Ueda pulled Japan back into it with a fine header from a corner, but South Korea held on for the win.

For many of us, it's hard to comprehend what that must be like.

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"I am so thankful to Tottenham because they let me go, normally it's not easy to do", Son said, dedicating his gold medal to his country.

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