As he recovers from a recent facial surgery, South Korean football icon Son Heung-min said Wednesday he will play at the upcoming FIFA World Cup with a protective mask.
The Tottenham Hotspur forward and the South Korean captain took to social media to thank his fans for their support, following his injury sustained in a collision with an opponent during a UEFA Champions League match on Nov. 1. Son underwent surgery on multiple fractures around his left eye last Friday.
He is now in a race against time, with South Korea's first Group H match against Uruguay set for Nov. 24 in Qatar.
In a Korean message on his Instagram page, Son said he will keep working hard to get himself ready "as long as there is a 1 percent chance" that he can play.
"Compared to the masks you've had to put up with over the past two or so years (during the COVID-19 pandemic), the mask that I will don at the World Cup will be nothing," Son wrote. "Playing for the country at the World Cup is a dream for so many young aspiring football players, and I still harbor that dream to this day."
In an English-language message immediately below the Korean version, Son did not make any reference to the mask. He wrote, "I won't miss this for the world. I can't wait to represent our beautiful country. See you soon. Sonny."
Since Son got hurt, speculation has been running rampant as to his availability for the big tournament, with some pundits expressing optimism that he might be able to play if he dons a mask.
South Korea head coach Paulo Bento is scheduled to announce his 26-man World Cup squad in Seoul on Saturday.
After Uruguay, South Korea will face Ghana on Nov. 28 and then Portugal on Dec. 2.
Son, the reigning Premier League Golden Boot winner, leads all active South Korean internationals with 35 goals in 104 matches. (Yonhap)