Music by Elton John. Lyrics by the Tottenham Hotspur faithful. Adulation for Son Heung-min.
Simply known as “Sonny,” the South Korean star knew he had made it in the English Premier League when his name echoed around White Hart Lane to the tune of Elton’s golden oldie classic, “Your Song.”
And we will tell everybody, he is our Son,
it may be quite simple but now that he’s on,
we hope you don’t mind, we hope you don’t mind, that we put down in words,
how wonderful Spurs are, when Son’s in the goals.
Britpop aficionados might roll their eyes and K-pop fans might wince, but when it comes to the sporting opera known as football, this is Grammy class.
Sonny, of course, is a convert.
“I just hope that people don’t forget me after 50 or 60 years,” he joked. “This feels great and I’m honored to play here, scoring goals and winning games.
“It is incredible. I am so grateful because this is a dream for me. I always say when you think positively then positive things can happen,” he added.
At age 26, Son is nearing the peak of his power, a classy forward with a tremendous work ethic and an eye for the unexpected.
A man for all seasons, this has been a special one for the special Spurs Son. He has scored 20 goals and played a key role in the North London club’s Champions League campaign, helping them to within one glittering 90-minute performance from a place in the final of Europe’s premier competition.
Despite being suspended from the first leg of Tottenham’s semi-final against Ajax last week, he will be back for the second leg in Amsterdam after a tumultuous 96 hours.
Forced to sit out the 1-0 defeat at Spurs’ new US$1.3 billion stadium, Sonny returned for the Premier League game against Bournemouth on Saturday and was uncharacteristically sent off for a reckless challenge just before half-time.
It was hardly the dress-rehearsal he was looking for as Tottenham prepare for their European date with destiny in the early hours of Thursday morning for live-streaming Asian fans.
“It’s going to be difficult, but it’s still open,” Mauricio Pochettino, the Spurs manager, said. “It’s about preparing for the second leg. It will be tough for us, but also tough for them.”
Son has added impetus to their Champions League ambitions. His three goals against Manchester City in the quarter-finals guaranteed Tottenham a place in the last four for the first time in 57 years.
His performance was out of this world.
“There are tons of articles about Son and Spurs in the sports news in [South] Korea and many people are interested in Spurs,” Sol Chan-won, the chairman of South Korea Spurs, said on Tottenham’s website.
“His goals have triggered an explosion of interest in his performances and Spurs from our Korean Spurs community,” he added.
Sonny’s rise has been literally meteoric. His online profile is staggering while in South Korea he is considered a football god.
A study commissioned by Nielsen Sports has revealed that he has nearly two million followers on social media. In turn, this has made him Asia’s most popular athlete ahead of Japan’s Shinji Kagawa, who plays for Turkish club Besiktas.
At home, he is treated like a “rock star,” and is mobbed by adoring fans where ever he goes.
“Do I feel like an ambassador for my country?” Son asked. “Of course, I have to be. Another example: when we play at 3 pm, it’s midnight in Korea. When we play in the Champions League at 8 pm, it’s five in the morning and they still watch on TV.
“I have to pay back; I take a lot of responsibility,” he told The Guardian newspaper in London.
Still, his pulling power is quite remarkable. Robbie Kruse, a former team-mate when Sonny was playing in the German Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen, recalled the day when more than 30,000 fans turned up to see him in a Seoul shopping mall during a pre-season tour of South Korea.
“It was like being with a rock star,” Kruse said.
Son now wears a baseball cap and sunglasses when he returns to his homeland because he is worried that people will end up being injured by the large crowds that would otherwise follow him around.
It is this humble approach to life that has endeared him to two countries separated by a common language – football.
“My father told me when I was young that if I was through on goal but an opponent fell and hurt themselves, I should put the ball out and check on the opponent. Because if you’re a good footballer but don’t know how to respect others, you’re nobody,” he said.
For a certain Mr Son-body, there is no danger of that.