(LEAD) PSG’s Lee Kang-in apologizes to Son Heung-min over Asian Cup row; Son asks fans to forgive Lee

SEOUL, South Korean football player Lee Kang-in said Wednesday he has apologized to the men's national team captain Son Heung-min in person in London over their scuffle during a recent tournament, while also thanking the veteran player for accepting his apology with open arms. Lee, the 23-year-old midfielder for Paris Saint-Germain, posted his apology on Instagram Wednesday morning in South Korean time, a week after the incident between him and Son, also captain for Tottenham Hotspur, during the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup was revealed. About an hour later, Son also took to social media to announce he accepted Lee's apology and also called on football fans to forgive Lee. Son also uploaded a photo of himself standing with Lee, both of them smiling. The Korea Football Association (KFA) confirmed earlier British media reports that Son had dislocated a finger in his right hand during a heated exchange with Lee over a game of table tennis on the eve of South Korea's semifinal match against Jordan in Qatar. Per sources, Son, 31, had wanted to use a team dinner as an opportunity for team bonding prior to the big match, but Lee, along with some of the team's youngest players, had finished their meal early to play table tennis. Lee defied Son's order to stop playing and some teammates had to separate the two before things escalated further. Lee acknowledged Wednesday he had "greatly disappointed" Son and the rest of the team, as well as football fans with his "careless action." "I thought it would be important to visit Heung-min and offer my heartfelt apology. Through our long conversation, I was able to understand the weight he had been carrying as captain of the national team, and also to reflect on myself," Lee wrote. "I'd like to take this opportunity to once again thank Heung-min for welcoming me so warmly in London with open arms." South Korea lost to Jordan 2-0 on Feb. 6 and the KFA fired head coach Jurgen Klinsmann 10 days later. Klinsmann later blamed the loss on the fragile team chemistry, not a ny tactical issues on his part. Lee also wrote an apology on Instagram last Wednesday but only said he was sorry to football fans without directing it to Son or other teammates. Over the ensuing days, Lee has been under considerable heat for challenging Son's authority despite being the team's youngest player in Qatar. Corporate sponsors began removing ads featuring Lee's image or cutting ties with him altogether, amid boycott threats among angry consumers. Son's standing as one of South Korea's most popular and respected athletes also contributed to Lee being portrayed as an arrogant young player. Lee said he was sorry that he hadn't listened to advice from his captain. "I knew in my head how important this tournament was to Heung-min, but I didn't show that with my behavior. And I think that's where all the problems began," Lee wrote. "In particular, I did not listen to advice he gave to me as captain and teammate to ensure team cohesion. I just expressed my own opinions." Sources have said Lee took a swing at Son but didn't connect. Lee's legal representatives have countered that reports of Lee's striking Son aren't true. Without going into specifics, Lee apologized for his action. "At the team dinner that day, I did something I should never have done. When I look back on it now, I should never have done that," Lee said. "I am deeply sorry for that." Lee said he had reached out to every one of his teammates from the Asian Cup to apologize, and thanked them for accepting his apology. "I am truly sorry that my words and behavior when interacting with teammates lacked courtesy and respect," the player said. "I promised them that I will be more respectful toward them." Lee said some other younger players on the team ended up being criticized for their involvement in the incident and claimed he should be taking all the blame instead. "Once again, I am sorry that I've disappointed our fans for not carrying myself the way I should have as a member of the national team," Lee said. "This allowed me to realiz e once again that I am where I am today because of the players that have come before me and because of the love and support from so many fans. I will dedicate myself to trying to become a better football player and a better person." Son responded on his own Instagram page that Lee had indeed offered him and the rest of the team "a sincere apology." "To make sure Kang-in won't make mistakes like this again, my teammates and I will take special care of him and help him develop into a good person and a good athlete," Son wrote. "When I was younger, I made my share of mistakes. And I think I am where I am in my career today thanks to the advice and guidance from good veterans whenever that happened." Son pleaded with fans to forgive Lee, saying, "Kang-in has been going through a really difficult time since the incident. As captain of the national team, I'd like to ask you to please forgive him with your generous heart." Son said he would shoulder his share of blame for the quarrel, adding, "I am not proud of my own actions, either." "However, I believe it's part of the captain's job description to have to do things that people may not like, as long as it's for the good of the team," Son added. "Even If I end up in the same situation, I'd act for the team. But I will try to be smarter and wiser when trying to lead my teammates." Son also denied rumors that the national team had a few different cliques within during the Asian Cup. "We've always tried to take aim at the common goal as a team," Son said. "I want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for causing this trouble, despite all the love we've been getting from our fans. We'll try to take this opportunity to grow into a better team." Source: Yonhap News Agency