18th January 2011 might be a date that is special for star Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min. For it was on this day, exactly 10 years ago, that he scored his first international goal for his country.
The occasion and the opponents? None other than India in an AFC Asian Cup group game in Doha.
It might not have been a memorable outing for the Indian national team but the game also marked the final competitive appearance of one of India's greatest footballers in Bhaichung Bhutia. The Blue Tigers went down 4-1 to South Korea, with Ji Dong-won scoring a brace while Koo Ja-Cheol and Son completing the scoring for the South Koreans. India's consolation was a penalty by Sunil Chhetri.
Son, considered an absolute icon in South Korea, has been tearing it up in the Premier League with Tottenham. In fact, he is the first Asian player to score 50 goals in the Premier League and is also the highest-ranked Asian to have featured in the Ballon d'Or lists.
He has 89 caps for South Korea and has scored 26 goals for them. He helped the Taeguk Warriors reach the final of the 2015 Asian Cup and also excelled in South Korea's brief campaign in the 2018 World Cup. Son scored in South Korea's famous 2-0 win over Germany in the group stages though the team could not progress from the group.
But it all started for the 28-year-old back in 2011. All of 18 back then, Son was playing for Bundesliga side Hamburger SV and was earmarked for success.
He made his debut for the national team in a pre-tournament friendly against Syria on 30 December 2010 as the team prepared for the 2011 Asian Cup. He would get his second appearance against India in the final group game and he made his mark.
Photo: Son Heung-Min (11) celebrates with teammate Koo Ja-Cheol after scoring the fourth goal against India at the Al-Gharafa stadium in Doha
This was a game where the Koreans completely dominated the proceedings with 15 shots on target, 15 shots off target and as many as eight being blocked.
While the focus was on Manchester United star Ji-Sung Park and Swansea City’s Ki-Sung Yeung, it was an 18-year-old Son who made an instant impact after coming on in the second half. It was a sublime left-footed finish from a tight angle in the 81st minute that beat Subrata Paul all ends up and helped Korea register a thumping 4-1 victory.
Son was at his best against the Indians as he not only scored a goal but also carved open the Indian defence on quite a few occasions.
After scoring the goal, he celebrated by making a heart with his hands as a tribute for his brother (Heung-yun Son) whose birthday fell on the same day. It was special for Son because he and his brother were trained by their father Son Woong-jung, a former professional footballer who aimed to take his sons to the top with a strict and disciplined regimen.
While Heung-yun made it only till the fifth tier of German professional football system, Heung-min Son has certainly did his brother, father and his country proud by reaching the pinnacle.