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Psychology of ‘crybaby’ Son Heung-min

Posted November. 09, 2019 08:08,   

Updated November. 09, 2019 08:08


Crybaby is a nickname of Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur), who has posted a total of 123 goals and just broken Cha Bum-kun (66)’s record of most goals (121) scored by Korean player in the European professional soccer leagues. The 27-year-old Korean has other nicknames including “Sonsational” and “Super Son” and he earned the nickname “Crybaby” because he has gone tearful oftentimes. He would cry for joy when his team won a match and burst into tears for regret when it lost. For this reason, fans have expressed concern that he might be mentally weak despite his outstanding talent and performance in soccer. However, his tears have been both “catalysis” that has enabled him to clear his mind and “nutrition” that has enriched him to take another step forward.

Son again went into tears at an 11th round and away match against Everton of the English Premier League, which took place at Goodison Park in Liverpool, the U.K. on Monday. Son became tearful as he got perplexed when Everton’s Andre Gomes fell and suffered a big injury after Son attempted to make a back tackle. Even shivering, Son could hardly see Gomez, and was seen crying as he walked away from the ground after receiving a red card.

Fans had a lot of worries about Son as they doubted whether he will be able to recover immediately, to see him agitated so much, but he has proven to be absolutely resilient. He even displayed a “prayer ceremony” to wish for Gomez’s speedy recovery when he broke Cha Bum-kun (Cha Boom)’s record by scoring two goals to win the qualifying round (4-0) of the UCL Champions League in the match against Crvena Zvezda, which took place in Beograd, Serbia on Thursday. The South Korean soccer star has completely dispelled concern, which some of his fans had regarding his mental condition. 

In sports psychology, some studies have shown that players who easily express their emotion overcome a crisis more rapidly. “Son was able to overcome because he not only armed himself with capability and performance in matches but also learned the ability to manage and cope with crises from world-class players while playing in the world’s top leagues,” said Kang Seung-koo, professor of Sports Science at Chung-Ang University.

Son also says that expressing his emotion, rather than hiding it, has rather helped him. “I think it is important to show fans myself as a natural person,” Son said when asked why he becomes tearful so often in an interview with a magazine. “Then, I can share my joy with others when I feel happy, and share my sadness with them and get consoled while I feel sad.”

It is perhaps for this reason that Son has recovered and revived like a roly-poly after bursting into tears in important matches. He cried out without reservation when Team Korea advanced to the round of 16 teams at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Through this episode, he earned the nickname “Crybaby.” At the 2018 World Cup in Russia, however, Son dashed more than 50 meters at full speed during overtime in the second half of the match to score his second goal, and brought Germany to its knee for the first time in the history of Korean soccer in the qualifying round of the World Cup, to generate the “Miracle of Kazan.”

He also became weepy when Team Korea narrowly lost 1-2 to Australia during overtime in the final match of the Asian Cup, which took place in Australia in 2015. However, three years later at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang he successfully led his younger teammates of the Korean team to win the gold medal and conquer Asian soccer. Son’s tears have never been give-up or failure.

Won-Joo Lee takeoff@donga.com