Football: Fifa rewards Malaysian stunner Faiz Subri with year's best goal award

Penang FA forward Faiz Subri received the Fifa Puskas Award from Brazilian great Ronaldo at the award ceremony on Monday. His stunning free kick secured 59.46 per cent of a global vote.
Penang FA forward Faiz Subri received the Fifa Puskas Award from Brazilian great Ronaldo at the award ceremony on Monday. His stunning free kick secured 59.46 per cent of a global vote.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Faiz Subri's stupendous effort recognised globally as goal of the year

Malaysian footballer Faiz Subri made history when his stunning free kick won the Fifa Puskas Award, an accolade given to the year's best goal.

The Penang FA forward is the first Asian footballer to win the award. He received his trophy from Brazilian legend Ronaldo at a star-studded ceremony held in Zurich on Monday night.

His goal from more than 30 metres out, scored in a 4-1 win over Pahang in a Malaysian Super League (MSL) match, produced a devastating swerve that the opposing goalkeeper could only watch as the ball went into the net.

It secured 59.46 per cent of a global vote, ahead of goals by Brazil's Marlone and Venezuela's Daniuska Rodriguez.

In his acceptance speech, the 29-year-old said: "It never crossed my mind that I would arrive at this level and be able to stand tall among the world-class footballers in this amazing place."

Previous winners of the award, named after Hungarian legend Ferenc Puskas, include Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (2009), who was named the world's best male footballer on the same night; Brazilian ace Neymar (2011); Swedish and Manchester United star Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2013); and Colombian and Real Madrid forward James Rodriguez (2014).

While some sceptics have questioned if he really intended to go for goal, Faiz said in an earlier interview that he had practised it on the training ground.

Singapore midfielder Faris Ramli said he felt so inspired by Faiz's win that he tried to replicate the free kick in training yesterday.

He said: "It's an amazing goal because of that extraordinary swerve. I think the award is a morale booster for all Asian footballers, and we can now believe that nothing is impossible. My heartiest congratulations to Faiz Subri."

Singapore goalkeeper Hassan Sunny added: "From a goalkeeper's perspective, it is difficult to save because you have to adapt to the movement of the ball and the ball moved (a lot)."

Penang FA team manager Zairil Khir Johari told The Straits Times: "It's a fantastic achievement and it's well-deserved. Football is such that regardless of your background, only talent and skill matter and this award shows that.

"The award is something that will be a boost to Penang and Malaysian football."

Indeed, Faiz was the toast of his country yesterday, with the player being acclaimed in mainstream as well as social media.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak tweeted yesterday: "Your achievement in the #FIFAPuskasAward 2016 will inspire all Malaysian footballers and also makes the country proud!"

Faiz's goal went viral in February last year, with Mr Najib also among those who congratulated him.

However, Zairil cautioned against going overboard with the celebrations, saying: "We don't want the players to lose focus. We want Faiz back in training and to get ready for next match. I'm sure that's what he wants too."

Indeed, Penang are already in the thick of pre-season preparations. They defeated PDRM FA 2-1 in a friendly match yesterday.

The player is expected to arrive back in Penang this evening.

Zairil's view is shared by Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, the Crown Prince of Johor and chairman of reigning MSL champions Johor Darul Takzim, who added that the award should not distract from the problems in Malaysian football.

The national team sank to an all-time low ranking of 174th last April.

They were also thrashed 10-0 by the United Arab Emirates in the World Cup qualifiers.

In a Facebook post, Tunku Ismail said: "This is a good individual achievement, but we must ask: 'Where does the national football stand in terms of corruption, international standing, and team management in comparison to teams like Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines or Indonesia that are on a constant and rapid incline?'"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2017, with the headline 'Fifa rewards Malaysian stunner'. Print Edition | Subscribe