Heung-min Son: I struggle to see the ball while wearing a mask, but my parents are worried

Heung-min Son: I struggle to see the ball while wearing a mask, but my parents are worried

Tottenham’s Heung-min Son has revealed he loses sight of the ball while playing in a protective mask, but says he is still wearing it due to concern from his parents.

Son scored in just a second League game of the season as Spurs thrashed Crystal Palace 4-0 on Wednesday night, and he is expected to start again when Antonio Conte rings the changes for tomorrow’s FA Cup third-round visit of Portsmouth.

The South Korean flung off his mask while celebrating his goal at Selhurst Park — which he described as a weight off his shoulders — having discarded it completely inside 20 minutes of the defeat by Aston Villa in the previous game on New Year’s Day.

Son has been playing in the mask since surgery on a fracture around his eye socket before the World Cup, and revealed his family and friends are concerned about the risk of him taking another blow to the face.

Heung-min Son throws off his mask after scoring against Crystal Palace (REUTERS)
Heung-min Son throws off his mask after scoring against Crystal Palace (REUTERS)

“Obviously, it’s not the same as when I play without the mask,” Son told Standard Sport. “My vision is still okay, but when the ball is coming to me, it’s sometimes annoying, because I can’t see the ball because of the mask. It’s not really bothering me, but it’s not the best.

“Against Villa, I was really frustrated, because I received the ball and then suddenly I lost the ball, because I couldn’t see it. I was just angry.

“If I’m alone, obviously, I would play without the mask, but my parents, my family, my friends watching back in South Korea are all worried. Obviously, it’s a risk if someone hits me again.

“They [my parents] didn’t say you should wear it or whatever, but we were having dinner [after the Villa game] and they said, ‘Um, what happened with the mask?’

“Obviously, they’re worried. And also the physios and doctors said after the Villa game, ‘It’s your decision, but we recommend you should still be wearing the mask’, because the risk is still high, because it’s just seven weeks since the operation.”

Asked how long he would remain masked, Son said: “We’ll see”, but he is expected to continue wearing it against Pompey in the lunchtime kick-off.

After winning the Premier League’s Golden Boot last season, Son had only scored in one League game this season before Wednesday — a lightning hat-trick from off the bench against Leicester — and admitted he felt bad for his team-mates and the Spurs fans over his dramatic drop-off in form.

“Frustrated is the wrong word, to be honest! First of all, I felt a bit sorry for the team, my team-mates, the fans, because the expectation is obviously higher than what I’ve been doing,” he said. “It [the goal] was obviously like a weight off my shoulders going away. I’m grateful that first of all we won the game. That’s the most important thing. It’s a really difficult place to get three points here, so I’m really happy to win this game.

“The north London derby [on January 15] has special meaning for the players and the fans,” Son added. “We didn’t perform well when we played there, so we have big homework to do. We’ll get ready for the Portsmouth game first, but then we’ll get ready for that game.”

Heung-min Son celebrates soring. (REUTERS)
Heung-min Son celebrates soring. (REUTERS)

Conte is expected to make changes for the visit of the League One side, with Bryan Gil, Ryan Sessegnon and Pape Matar Sarr pushing for starts.

Spurs are aiming to win the FA Cup for the first time since 1991, but Conte has already said he does not consider the tournament among the biggest prizes on offer.

“In my mind, the best targets are the Premier League and the Champions League, not the Carabao Cup or FA Cup, with the greatest respect for these trophies,” the Italian said ahead of Wednesday’s win over Palace.

Tottenham have a rich tradition in the FA Cup, but the eight-time winners have not enjoyed a good record in the competition in recent years. After reaching back-to-back semi-finals under Mauricio Pochettino in 2016-17 and 2017-18, Spurs lost in the fourth round the following season and have been dumped out in the fifth round in the past three years.

Last season, they suffered an embarrassing defeat at Championship side Middlesbrough. But Tottenham host League One side Portsmouth tomorrow and they have not lost any of their last 43 FA Cup games at home against sides from outside the top-flight dating back to 1975.