Son Heung-min takes boos in his stride , Latest Football News - The New Paper

Son Heung-min takes boos in his stride

Given the tribal nature of the sport, it is rare to find a footballer that is universally popular.

But unless you are a frustrated Arsenal fan who is still trying to forget Son Heung-min’s miss against Manchester City during the title run-in, it is fair to say that the South Korea captain is a rare example of someone who transcends football tribalism for he has established a reputation as being “Mr Nice Guy”.

So, few would have predicted that on June 6, the Tottenham Hotspur star, who has been Asia’s top player in the English Premier League, would be booed by a sizable home crowd among the 49,097 fans at the National Stadium when he had his first touch of the ball within a minute of the opening whistle.

Son, who had been a fan favourite even among many neutrals when Spurs made pre-season trips to Singapore in 2019 and 2023, was later given a rousing ovation when he was substituted in the 87th minute after scoring a brace in the 7-0 thumping of Singapore.

Asked about the booing at the post-match conference, Son admitted that there were some “bad words” aimed in his direction, but he smiled to show that he understood this was part and parcel of sport.

When asked if the booing had motivated him, he flashed his trademark grin, saying: “Every single game motivates me. When I’m on the pitch, I want to do my best and that’s what I tried to do today. They (the fans) did what they needed to. For me, it was a joy, even if I got booed, and also some bad words. But still I enjoyed it.

“I have a lot of fans in Singapore which I really, really appreciate. But when you play against each other, it’s like a war. As a fan, you can’t just support the opposite player which I totally understand.

“(Singapore) have fantastic fans today and massive, massive respect for this kind of support, and this kind of stadium environment. We move on and I wish Singapore football all the best for the future.”

With the win, the Taegeuk Warriors progressed to Asia’s final round of qualification by sealing top spot in the four-team Group C, while Singapore will finish bottom.

Son, who will lead his nation to their final group match against China in Seoul on June 11, also had kind words for the Lions.

“When you look at the result today, probably everybody will say the Singapore team was really poor, but it wasn’t the case. They fought and we were more clinical and we took the chances really well,” he said.

“They have to keep working hard... They need to sacrifice and they need to spend some time (working on it).”

Later at the mixed zone, he urged South Korean football chiefs not to rush their search for a permanent coach.

Kim Do-hoon, formerly coach of Singapore Premier League club Lion City Sailors, was taking interim charge of the Koreans for the win over Singapore and their next match against China.

He is their second interim coach since Jurgen Klinsmann was fired following their semi-final exit at the Asian Cup earlier this year.

Son said: “Even if it takes time, I think it’s important for us to find a coach that suits us and the kind of football we want to play. The players are making an effort to adapt, allowing us to play well in a relatively positive atmosphere.”

Singapore Footballtottenham hotspurepl