Tottenham Hotspur star Son Heung-min has revealed he faced racism as a teenage footballer in Germany and was happy to get “revenge” when South Korea knocked Germany out of 2018 World Cup.
Son, 29, became the first Asian footballer to win the Golden Boot for being top scorer in the English Premier League with 23 goals last season.
The South Korea football icon, the leading Asian goalscorer in English football’s top-flight history, was awarded the country’s highest sporting honour in June for his achievements.
But Son said his most memorable career moment had been South Korea’s stunning 2-0 victory over Germany four years ago, because of the racism he had endured in the country as a teenager after joining Hamburg in 2010.
Son shared in public for the first time his experiences of racism, while speaking to fans at an event in Seoul on Monday.
“I moved to Germany when I was young, and went through so many really difficult, unimaginable moments,” said Son, who left Hamburg in 2013 for Bayer Leverkusen.
“I faced a lot of racism. And while going through such a really difficult time, I had a lot of thoughts on my mind I should get my revenge one day.”
Germany were the defending World Cup champions in Russia but the shock defeat to South Korea meant they finished bottom of their group, leaving many German fans in tears at the Kazan Arena.
Son, who scored the second goal in injury time to seal Germany’s early exit, said he had little sympathy.
“When people cry, I’d (usually) want to comfort them and give them a hug,” he said. “But watching German people cry, (I felt) I was able to take revenge by doing something I like,” he added.
Son has also faced racism during his Premier League career in England since he moved to Spurs from Leverkusen in 2015.
Last year, eight men suspected of tweeting racist abuse at Son were arrested at addresses across England and Wales.
Son will join up with his Tottenham teammates when they arrive in South Korea for pre-season games against the K-League All-Stars in Seoul on July 13 and Sevilla FC three days later in Suwon, 45 kilometres south of Seoul.