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South Korea captain Son Heung-min asks fans to forgive Lee Kang-in after Asian Cup brawl

By Sam Joseph, Yoonjung Seo and Andrew McNicol, CNN

(CNN) — Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Lee Kang-in said on Wednesday that he apologized to Tottenham Hotspur forward and South Korea captain Son Heung-min in person in London after a brawl took place between them at the Asian Cup this month.

The pair clashed about playing table tennis while on international duty with South Korea ahead of the team’s 2-0 loss to Jordan in the Asian Cup semifinal on February 6.

“A physical brawl occurred between the Korean national football team players Son Heung-min and Lee Kang-in during dinner the day before the Asian Cup semifinal match against Jordan,” an official at the Korea Football Association (KFA) told CNN on February 16.

The incident saw 31-year-old Son dislocate his finger, according to The Athletic and South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

Son was spotted playing with two fingers taped together on his right hand in the semifinal and in Tottenham’s recent English Premier League matches against Brighton and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Kim Ga-ram, Lee’s legal representative, said in a statement to CNN that Lee “deeply regrets and reflects on his wrongdoings” and believed that an apology was necessary as “he was at the center of the dispute.”

Kim also added that playing table tennis is a regular activity for the South Korea squad.

Lee posted a black screen with a heartfelt apology to Son, his team and soccer fans on Instagram on Wednesday, saying he felt it was important to visit Son in person and “offer a sincere apology.”

He acknowledged his lapse in judgment and admitted to disregarding Son’s advice for unity as the team captain, opting instead to only voicing his own opinions.

“During the last Asian Cup, I caused great disappointment to Heung-min, the entire team and soccer fans due to my short thinking and rash actions,” Lee said. “It was something I should never have done.”

Lee also promised to have a better attitude, work harder and dedicate himself to become a “better soccer player as well as a person.”

Shortly after Lee’s post, Son also took to Instagram to announce he accepted Lee’s apology and also urged the public to forgive Lee, posting a photo of him and Lee and citing his own past mistakes.

“All of our players, as senior members of the national team and as a captain, will take special care so that Kang-in can grow into a better person and a better player so that he won’t do such wrong things again,” Son said.

“I don’t think I did a good job either but I believe that it is one of the captain’s duties to do such unpleasant things for the sake of the team.

“So even if I were to face the same situation again, I would act for the sake of the team,” Son added. “Kang-in is going through a very difficult time after that incident. Please forgive him just once with a generous heart.”

The incident came amidst a period of turmoil for the South Korean national side. The Taegeuk Warriors scraped through to the Asian Cup semifinals, despite only winning one game in regulation time during the competition, before being upset by Jordan.

South Korea entered the tournament as world No. 23 in FIFA’s official men’s team rankings, 64 places ahead of Jordan, which eventually lost to defending champion Qatar in the final.

The defeat cost manager Jürgen Klinsmann his job – the German coach was fired on Friday, less than a year into his tenure with the side.

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CNN’s Brad Lendon, Gawon Bae, Soeun Kim and Akanksha Sharma contributed to reporting.

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