SEOUL, South Korea – Son Heung-min has been left off South Korea's squad for a pair of internationals as part of a proposal to let him remain with Tottenham during the Premier League club's title chase in return for being allowed to represent his country at the Olympics.
With Tottenham currently second and aiming to become champion for the first time since 1961, South Korea coach Uli Stielike agreed to let the forward stay in England rather than be picked for matches against Lebanon and Thailand. In opting not to select Son, Stielike hopes that Tottenham will return the favor and release him for the Olympics in August.
"We've asked Tottenham to make Son available for the Olympics as a wild card, and in exchange, we offered not to select him for matches in March," Stielike said Monday.
Son joined Tottenham in August. Although he is not a regular starter, he is often named as a substitute.
The men's Olympic soccer tournament is restricted to players 23 and under, although each team is allowed to pick three overage players. Son turns 24 in July.
South Korea hopes to select Son as one of its wild cards but needs Tottenham's permission because the Olympic tournament is not part of FIFA's international match calendar.
South Korea takes Olympic soccer seriously. Any male athlete who wins a medal is granted exemption from mandatory military service. At the 2012 Olympics, South Korea's squad took bronze.
South Korea's two international matches in March both carry little weight. The first is a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Lebanon on March 24, but South Korea has already won its group. The second, three days later, is a friendly against Thailand.