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Son Heung-min says Tottenham will release him for Rio Games

All News 15:14 June 07, 2016

INCHEON, June 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korean forward Son Heung-min said Tuesday his English club, Tottenham Hotspur, will let him play at the Olympics, though the timing of his release remains up in the air.

Son is looking to play at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games as a "wild card." The Olympic football competition is open to players under 23 years of age, though each country is allowed to select up to three older players as their wild cards. Son will turn 24 in July.

The Olympic team head coach Shin Tae-yong has already revealed that he would use Son as one of the three wild cards. But Shin also lamented that the talks with Tottenham are not going well, the two sides apparently having differences over the timing of Son's release.

Since Olympic football is not organized by FIFA, professional clubs are not mandated to release players over 23 for the Olympics, and those who want to participate in the quadrennial event need to have permission from their clubs.

"My club told me that I can play for the Rio Games, but what's important is the timing of my release," Son said. "I want to join the Olympic team quickly and play with teammates."

Coach Shin previously said he wants to assemble the team in early July for training after announcing the 18-man squad on June 27. But Tottenham reportedly want to release Son later than South Korea's proposed date. Son said he will soon talk with the Korea Football Association (KFA) and with his English Premier League side about his release date.

"My goal is to help South Korea to win another Olympic medal (after the country won the bronze at the London Games)," he said. "I'm also working hard to be called up (by the Olympic team) as soon as possible."

Son returned to his homeland after playing two friendly matches in Europe. He started South Korea's 6-1 defeat to Spain in Salzburg, Austria, on Wednesday and then the 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic in Prague on Sunday. Though he failed to score any goals, the former Bayer Leverkusen attacker said he still learned a lot from the two matches.

"I realized how strong European teams are," he said. "I also felt it's important to play friendly matches in Europe. We can get stronger ahead of the major competitions by going up against world-class players."

South Korea will enter the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in September. Son said his team will be prepared for the qualifiers.

"In the final round, a single mistake should not be accepted," he said. "Since the top Asian teams will feature in the final round, we will prepare thoroughly to display good performances."

kdon@yna.co.kr
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