PSG midfielder Lee Kang-in apologizes over Asian Cup row with Son Heung-min

 Son Heung-min / Yonhap

Caught in the center of controversy over a national team row during a recent tournament, Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) midfielder Lee Kang-in apologized for his behavior Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, the Korea Football Association (KFA) had confirmed British media reports that South Korea captain Son Heung-min suffered a finger injury in a dust-up with Lee on the eve of the team’s semifinal loss to Jordan at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup last week.

“It has been reported in the media that I had an argument with Son Heung-min before our semifinal match at the Asian Cup. I have caused great disappointment to fans who always support our national team. I am really sorry,” Lee wrote in his Instagram story. “I should have set an example and listened to older teammates. I’d like to apologize to many people who must be disappointed in me.”

The KFA said Lee, 22, and some other younger players on the team left the team dinner early to play table tennis. Son, who saw the meal as an opportunity for team bonding, took issue with that and suffered his injury during an ensuing scuffle.

The story took on a life of its own as the day progressed. Sources familiar with the incident said when Son confronted Lee, the younger player threw a punch in response but didn’t connect with the captain.

Son then dislocated his finger when other players tried to separate him and Lee, according to the sources.

Son played the Jordan match on Feb. 6 with his right index and middle fingers strapped together.

South Korea lost the match 2-0, coming up short of ending their 64-year title drought at the top AFC tournament. South Korea, world No. 23, failed to put a shot on goal in the shock loss to a team sitting 64 spots below them in the FIFA rankings.

Sources said some senior members of the team, a group that didn’t include Son at the time, asked head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to keep Lee out of the lineup against Jordan in the aftermath of the scuffle. Lee still got the start but wasn’t able to affect the outcome of the match.

Son and Lee tied for the team lead at the Asian Cup with three goals each.

“I fully understand the interest football fans have in me and also their expectations of me,” Lee said. “From now on, I will help my older teammates, and try to become a better player and a better person.”

Lee, who joined PSG last summer after spending his youth years and early professional seasons in France, is one of the most popular South Korean athletes today. He typically draws the loudest ovation at home whenever he is introduced before a national team match at home. When the previous national team head coach, Paulo Bento, kept Lee on the bench in some friendly matches at home, he was booed mercilessly.

Following the Asian Cup exit, Lee has rejoined PSG but will not play in the opening leg of their round of 16 match at the UEFA Champions League against Real Sociedad on Wednesday.

French media reported that Lee is dealing with a virus and the team decided to give him time to rest. (Yonhap)

Leave a Comment