Remember in Lockdown 1.0 when sports fans were glued to their TV/laptop/desktop/phone/tablet every Sunday to watch Michael Jordan’s The Last Dance documentary?
Well, you see, Son Heung-min took that personally (though for legal purposes, I am required to inform you that he didn’t take that personally, and in fact this documentary was in production long ago).
Still, the release of Sonsational has come at an opportune time for the Tottenham forward, well in with a shout of winning the Premier League Golden Boot, the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award, and most importantly, the Carabao Cup.
Here’s 90min’s review of Sonsational.
The documentary focusses on the life of Son Heung-min, because what else did you think it was going to be about?
Anyway, the film runs through different timelines and narratives in the South Korean’s life, firstly beginning with the more day-to-day aspects of his life as a Premier League footballer. Though he is also still like a child, having to be woken up by his father (Son Woong-jung, not Dad Heung-min) every day.
Son does a relatively good job at dealing with his fame, often asked for photographs and autographs while walking the streets of London (Hampstead specifically, for all you stalkers out there).
We are then taken to his hometown of Chuncheon to take a look at Son’s football academy – the Son Football Academy. Kids either side of the age of 15 train for eight hours day, largely just doing keepie-uppies and never practicing shooting as to protect their knee muscles. Hey, apparently it worked for one guy and he’s now starting for Tottenham Hotspur, so there’s method in the madness.
Strict regimes brought on by his father are a regular theme throughout the documentary, highlighting the importance of discipline and structure in Son’s life. He worked rigorously hard when the chance came to move to Germany and play for Hamburg, as his parents could not afford to send him there to study.
But even after making it as a professional, he still had lessons to learn from his father. After performing poorly at the Asian Cup, Son gained 4kg, much to the disgrace and embarrassment of his father. The two worked on an extreme training regime to lose most of the fat from his face – hopefully this regime is released to the public one day so I too could have Son’s cheeks and jawline.
After declining the chance to join Mauricio Pochettino’s Southampton in 2013, Son joins Bayer Leverkusen, before finally teaming up with the Argentine coach at Tottenham two years later, and this is where his status as a player goes up another level.
Over the last few seasons, Son has emerged as one of the Premier League’s best players, but he admits he still feels the prejudices towards Asian athletes, he often feels empty and lonely after games.
But he is still successful. Spurs’ run to the 2019 Champions League final – which Son played a huge role in – is charted in what is probably his most successful calendar year to date (filming apparently stopped before the Puskas Award-winning goal in December).
“I relieve my stress by playing football,” Son insisted. “I am a lucky person.
“Football is everything in my life.”
First off, this was hardly ever going to be The Last Dance. For starters, Son Heung-min is much better than Michael Jordan, I think we can all agree.
But more pertinently, it’s quite hard to construct a full narrative around a story that’s still being written. As mentioned, it appears filming for this project stopped not long after Spurs were beaten by Liverpool in the 2019 Champions League final.
Jose Mourinho’s arrival is an afterthought, but one that adds to the notion that Son is now seeking silverware. That’s understandable, though it is rather annoying considering how good he’s been on an individual level since that final.
Winning the Puskas Award isn’t a huge deal, but it’s still a big one, much bigger than the London Football Awards which are covered in the documentary. A second successive Player of the Year award at Spurs seems quite important, too.
While club-approved behind-the-scenes documentaries are starting to become more frequent, the once private world of football is starting to have the curtains drawn back on it. Sonsational adds to that without being revolutionary, without providing us with any industry-specific information.
If you’re a really, really big fan of Son, then you’ll enjoy it. Otherwise, it’s just an amalgamation of personal storylines and anecdotes about another elite athlete with a camera crew following them around.
Now time for everyone’s favourite section – the categories!
– Son literally having to be woken up by his father every day
– Son insisting he drives a lot
– Eric Dier and Jan Vertonghen seeing Son get mobbed in Hampstead, but opting not to help divert attention
– Thierry Henry having to buy Son dinner for losing in a football challenge
– Son wearing a football shirt to his graduation like a big nerd
Son’s older brother, Son Heung-Yoon, was also a professional footballer, but retired due to injury and now coaches at the Son Football Academy. When it’s pointed out to him that his younger sibling has played in a Champions League final, he bluntly replies: “Yeah, but he lost.”
– The camera crew and narrator repeatedly revealing where Son lives
– Son’s first professional goal coming against Chelsea (even if it was only a friendly)
– Son beating Henry at a football challenge
You’d think that for the Champions League final, Son would have something swanky lined up for his militant father to come and watch the game, right? Wrong – the poor bloke had to walk through traffic on the motorway to make the match on time.
– 90min podcaster and Evening Standard journalist Dan Kilpatrick
– The narrator, Spurs matchday announcer Paul Coyte
– The young Arsenal fan who Son had an exchange with that definitely didn’t look staged at all
Arise, Sir Son Woong-jung – life coach first, dad second, probably entertainer third.
– More of Dier and Vertonghen just refusing to help Son out
– Literally anything with Son’s mother
– Dan Kilpatrick with his top button done up, this is a family show
– Son crying for three hours after breaking a bone in his foot (he says this actually happened)
– Son’s dad’s reaction to the red card sustained for that challenge on Andre Gomes, even though it wasn’t his fault
– Son Heung-min
– Son Heung-min
– Son Heung-min