KUALA LUMPUR • The winner of Fifa's goal of the year award, Mohd Faiz Subri, received a hero's welcome from some 200 cheering fans when he returned to Malaysia yesterday.
"I will fight for a regular (first-team) spot," the diminutive Penang forward told reporters.
"And, if God willing, (I will) score similar curving goals because I practise hard to hammer the ball into the net."
He failed to find a regular place in the Penang starting line-up last season in the Malaysian Super League.
Even after the Fifa award, Penang coach Ashley Westwood warned that Faiz "has to fight for his place in the first 11. There is no automatic choice", according to the New Straits Times newspaper.
Last February, Faiz scored an extraordinary long-range swerving free kick for Penang, making him the first Asian to clinch the prestigious Fifa Puskas Award at a ceremony in Zurich on Monday.
Brazilian legend Ronaldo presented him with the trophy.
Footage of the 29-year-old's shot from 35 metres went viral last year, making him a sensation in football-crazy Malaysia.
His effort was reminiscent of the swerving thunderbolt by Brazil's Roberto Carlos against France in 1997.
"Faiz has made us all proud. I pray more Malaysians will follow his footsteps," said fan Aida Rasid, 28, a clerk waiting at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The Malaysian government and football authorities have announced a RM150,000 (S$48,192) reward for Faiz.
Shaikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa, the Asian Football Confederation president, hailed his success.
"It was truly a breathtaking strike that captured the imagination of football fans around the globe and the whole of Asia celebrates this victory with Faiz," he said in a statement.