Son Heung-min landed in Indonesia on Monday as he commences his battle to win gold at the Asian Games with South Korea and become exempt from what will otherwise be a compulsory military service.
The Tottenham forward is currently obligated to undertake a 21-month term in the military and it must begin within the next two years – unless he wins an Olympic or Asian Games gold.
Spurs have allowed their player to compete in the tournament in hope they will not lose a key member of their squad for almost two years, despite his departure coming just two days after the new season began.
‘Of course our target is gold but it is a long way to get to the final,’ Son said on his arrival at Bandung International Airport. ‘How we approach the game mentally is important. I have thought about the Asian Games a lot.’
‘We beat Germany at the World Cup when nobody expected it,’ he continued. ‘Like that, we could lose to other Asian teams here. We have to take each game as it comes, however, and if we don’t give everything in every game then it will be tough.’
All South Korean men are expected to take part in military service before the age of 27 and having just turned 26 the forward is running out of time to earn his exemption.
Son is unlikely to feature in South Korea’s opening group match against Bahrain on Wednesday but could play against Malaysia on Friday before the final group game with Kyrgyzstan.
The first knockout round will be played over August 23 and 24 with subsequent rounds every few days until the final on September 1.
Son will certainly miss Tottenham’s match this weekend with Fulham and should his country reach the final he will also be unavailable for the remaining matches this side of the international break – against Manchester United and Watford.
Should he escape any injuries, the 26-year-old would likely be back in Mauricio Pochettino’s squad for the match with Liverpool on September 15, which is set to be Tottenham’s first match at their new stadium.