There's a lot at stake for football/soccer superstar Son Heung Min (26) at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta Palembang.
The 2018 Asian Games is a continental multi-sport event held every four years among athletes from all over Asia. It is considered one of the most important sporting events in all parts of Asia. This year, Son, along with world cup heroes Cho Hyun Woo and Hwang Ui Jo, were chosen as the three "wildcards", or players over the maximum age limit of 23 to play on the team.
Here are 3 reasons why there's a lot at stake for Son to perform at this year's Asian Games:
1. It's his chance to solidify the South Korean football team as one of the best in Asia.
South Korea has had its moments on the international stage for football. In 2002, the South Korean team advanced all the way to the semifinals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup hosted by Korea and Japan. Along the way, Korea defeated powerhouses such as Portugal, Italy, and Spain, before losing to Germany in the semifinals and eventually earning fourth place. However, since their miraculous performance in 2002, Korea has only recently won the 2014 Asian Games for football... and not much else. Though South Korea's football team is widely regarded as one of the best in Asia, a gold-medal finish here with the help of Son can establish them as the undisputed #1 in Asia.
2. It's one of his last chances to bring international glory to Korea.
Typically, a footballer peaks between the ages of 27~29. Son recently turned 26. The next major international tournaments, which are the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou will be taking place when Son turns 30. Though it is possible that Son will remain fit and participate in these two games, he will definitely not be in his prime condition as a footballer. Thus, his best opportunity to bring back a strong finish back home is now, at Jakarta Palembang.
3. He will receive an exemption from mandatory military service.
The most obvious reason why Son's performance is so important at the 2018 Asian Games is that he will receive an exemption from mandatory military service. By the age of 28, all able-bodied men in Korea must enroll in 18 months of mandatory military service as per the new legislation passed reducing the length of military service. However, there are exceptions made for the nation's sportsmen. In this case, if Korea wins gold at the 2018 Asian Games, they will be exempt from the mandatory military service. For an athlete, this is paramount because they will be able to compete and improve. This is especially important for a player like Son Heung Min, who plays for one of the best professional football clubs in Europe, Tottenham Hotspur. If he receives the exemption, he will able to continue playing for a club that is close to a Premier League title in England. He will also lose out on millions in income if he were to serve nearly 2 years in the military service. Currently, Son's salary from Tottenham pays him around $5.6 million annually, if he were to serve, that is millions of potential income from his prime years that he won't be able to get back.
The 2018 Asian Games kicks off on August 18 in Indonesia. How do you think Korea will do in the 2018 Asian Games?