As captain of the South Korean soccer team and striker for English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, Son Heung-min knows a thing or two about becoming a professional athlete.
In an interview with CNBC, Son shared his top tips for turning professional and dealing with the pressures that come with it.
“Sleep well, eat well and do what you need, you know, like staying on the training ground when you need six hours, seven hours, eight hours,” he told Arabile Gumede on Friday. from CNBC in a video interview.
Even though distractions are everywhere, sports should always be the priority, Son believes.
“You have so many options, like, I don’t know, like video games, or like, you always want to do more, you know, like play with friends,” he said. “I think you should always think the number one thing is football.”
Son left South Korea aged 16 to join German football club Hamburger SV, with whom he made his first appearance in a top European football league in 2010. After spending time playing for Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, he moved on to London-based Tottenham. in 2015 for £22 million ($26.9 million).
Son also touched on some of the biggest lessons he’s learned from his career so far.
“I think the lessons are, don’t try to chase your happiness,” he told CNBC. A lot of people are constantly looking for happiness, he says – when in fact, it can come from things right in front of you like your family or your job, Son thinks.
One of the key moments when this became clear to him was just before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, when he got injured and wasn’t sure he could lead the South Korean football team to the best international tournament. His son suffered a fracture around his left eye, which forced him to play in a protective mask.
“I was there so I was playing with the mask,” he said. “I think it’s just a lesson I learned because I think positive. […] Happiness is the most important thing.”
Another way Son says he handles the pressures of being a professional athlete is to lean on his family and make sure he talks to them about his mental health.
“I’m sad, they’re sad, we’re happy and we’re all happy,” he says. “You can always share the feelings; you can always go with the family.”
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