Football: Faiz stays modest despite famous goal

Faiz Subri won Fifa's Puskas Award for his amazing free-kick strike for Penang against Pahang in the MSL last year.
Faiz Subri won Fifa's Puskas Award for his amazing free-kick strike for Penang against Pahang in the MSL last year.

Just a little over a year ago, he was a journeyman footballer who had played for six different Malaysia state teams since 2009 - a man with zero international caps for Malaysia and not guaranteed a starting place for his club Penang.

With one mighty swipe of his right boot on Feb 16 last year, life changed forever for Faiz Subri, as his outrageous free kick for Penang in the Malaysia Super League made him the first Asian to win Fifa's Puskas Award, given to the outstanding football goal of each year.

The 29-year-old was a guest of La Liga, as the Spanish league launched its Singapore office. He was invited to play in an exhibition game alongside former Real Madrid footballers Fernando Morientes and Fernando Sanz, as well as past and present Singapore internationals Aleksandar Duric and Gabriel Quak.

Speaking to The Straits Times in Malay, the shy, soft-spoken winger insists that the award has only motivated him to work harder.

He said: "Nothing has changed in my life. I am still the same. I am still focused on my training.

"Every day, I still try to improve my game. And it important for me to make sure that the team is at a good level."

Faiz earned worldwide fame when footage of his goal against Pahang - a 30m right-footed free kick that had so much spin that the ball swerved and dipped like a falling leaf into the top left corner of the goal - went viral on the Internet.

The Malaysian, who was called up twice but never capped by his country, found himself receiving the Puskas Award in January from Brazilian great Ronaldo, joining previous winners such as James Rodriguez (2014), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2013), Neymar (2011) and his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo (2009).

Since then, he has attracted 173,000 followers on Instagram, who watched his Fifa Football Awards adventure in Zurich. There, he posted wefies with retired Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and of course, his hero Ronaldo.

Back in his home state, the Spain and Manchester United fan received a medal from the Sultan of Kedah to honour his achievement. And while he has not been approached by sponsors, he has been showered with gifts of boots and apparel from fans.

"Very happy," he recalled his meeting with the Ballon d'Or winner excitedly, in English this time.

"Ronaldo is my favourite player. It is not easy to meet him personally and I feel lucky to do it."

Wang Meng Meng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2017, with the headline 'Faiz stays modest despite famous goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe