Arsenal 4 Newcastle 0 (incl. match highlights) – Gunners get their groove back, finally
You probably would have surmised by the article’s headline that the person I’m talking about here is the English Premier League’s (EPL) resident ‘Mr Nice Guy’ Son Heung-min.
I mean, what’s not to like about Son?
Perpetually cheery in front of the cameras, always ready to provide a positive soundbite to the media, and the most popular entity from South Korea since BTS, Son, it appears, can do no wrong in the eyes of the public.
How else would you explain the lack of outrage and introspection from fans and pundits alike, following his obvious dive in the box against Southampton in the FA Cup on Thursday morning (SGT)?
All it took for Son to plummet like a nangka busuk was the soft and sensual touch on his thigh by Saints goalkeeper Angus Gunn, who probably was arrested after the game for insulting the modesty of the Korean star.
Naturally, Son’s beguiling charm proved irresistible to referee David Coote, who awarded Spurs the penalty for Gunn’s crime against humanity. Coote presumably approached Son thereafter to console him and apply medicated oil on his violated thigh.
Because Son went on to brush himself off like nothing happened, grinned, and converted the penalty to give his team a 3-2 win over Southampton. The 27-year-old proceeded to celebrate by putting his finger on his lips to shush those at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium who had the audacity to jeer him for diving.
You can re-live Son's heroics in Spurs' FA Cup 4th-round tie win over Southampton here:
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How dare the crowd boo Son? How dare they *gasp* dislike him?
Innocence is written all over Son’s face. His eyes – smiling and pure – cajole all to stand in his corner, regardless of circumstances.
That was also how he was able to get the footballing community to rally around and support him through the trauma of being sent off for a reckless challenge on Everton’s Andre Gomes that left the Portuguese with a broken ankle.
Never mind that Son had as much chance of getting the ball when he slid in on Gomes as I do of going on a date with Daisy Ridley while dressed as Kylo Ren. The narrative in the aftermath of the incident was focused mostly on how Son was “not that kind of player”, and on how distraught and upset Son was with the events that unfolded that day.
He cried. He put his hands on his head in anguish. Like an actor in a Korean drama who had just lost his on-screen wife to a car accident, Son looked up to the sky, tears in his eyes, wrung his hands and beseeched the heavens to provide solace for his soul.
And the footballing world cried with Son. They shook their heads in collective despair, tut-tutting at the injustice of it all. It was all an accident, they said. Gomes’ injury was actually caused by him clattering into Serge Aurier, and not the tackle itself, they reasoned. Son never meant to cause any harm, they proclaimed.
And what about the injured Gomes, you ask? Who cares, really? All that really mattered was that the English FA would be sensitive to Son’s feelings and overturn the three-game ban for his tackle on Gomes – which they did.
Son then hammered home the point of being the humblest guy on earth by dedicating his goal celebration to Gomes after scoring in the Champions League against Red Star three days later. Gomes, sitting on the hospital bed with a cast on his leg must have felt immensely better after that. Who needs painkillers and hours of gruelling physiotherapy when you’ve got Son’s public contrition to comfort you?
One player who won’t be in Son’s good books, though, is Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger.
After all, the defender had the gall to use his chest to strike the sole of Son’s boot during Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Spurs in the EPL in December – or so Son’s legions of fans around the world would like to think.
Shockingly, instead of sending Rudiger off for what was a cowardly attack on Son’s golden foot, the referee decided to show the red card to the Spurs star. Spurs manager Jose Mourinho was understandably upset with the card because Son was so brutally attacked by Rudiger’s chest that the German probably broke a few ribs in the process.
This time, however, the English FA refused to rescind Son’s red card – proving, once again, that they are an organisation that is as consistent as the plot of the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Nonetheless, everyone soon brushed aside the fact that Son was sent off in the match against Chelsea – his third red card of the season – as the focus quickly turned towards how poor Spurs were playing without their key attacking threat (they barely beat Brighton, drew with Norwich and lost to Southampton).
It’s great being the EPL’s golden boy, isn’t it?
And that is why every team in the EPL should get a player like Son. Because such a player can get away with anything – he can dive, he can mistime his tackle, and even kick out petulantly at another player, but he’ll only ever be spoken about in glowing terms by the footballing community.
The world will love him. He’ll be the face of the team, the brightest among the stars. The fans’ favourite.
Nothing will ever be his fault. He’ll always be the victim, never the perpetrator. But more importantly, he’ll be able to get the important refereeing decisions going his way.
Now, wouldn’t you like your team to have its very own Son Heung-min too?