Football, or soccer in some places, has been a part of Malaysian culture for as long as most can remember, dominating household televisions and captivating the eyes of all in living rooms and dinner tables where people gather to watch matches with their friends. Instead, on January 9th 2017, an entire village gathered to watch, not a game, but one of their own nab the Puskás award at the Best FIFA Football Awards 2016 in Zurich, Switzerland.
On Monday night, Mohd Faiz Subri became the first Asian footballer to win the Best Goal award at the FIFA Football Awards 2016.
While the buzz surrounding the Golden Globes Award Ceremony filled every nook and cranny of most news publications, Ronaldo Luis Nazario was presenting the Puskás award to the 29-year old Malaysian. The Puskás award, named after renowned footballer Ference Puskás, was established in 2009 to commemorate the most aesthetically pleasing goal of the year. It can scored by any player across the world, whether they be male or female and at any match or tournament. Past recipients of this award include Cristiano Ronaldo (2009), Neymar (2011) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2013) – all famous names in the realm of football.
“I would like to thank the Penang Football Association, the Professional Footballers Association Malaysia, FAM, my family, my father, my mother, and everyone who voted for me,” Subri says in his acceptance speech, where he, comically enough, took a while to find as he spent a few minutes scrolling through his smartphone.
“Honestly, it never crossed my mind that I would be able to stand here for the best, world-class goal of 2016.”
The footballer’s humility continued to shine throughout post-award interviews as he was asked about the possibility of playing in Europe in the future.
“If there is a chance, of course I would love to play there. But for now, I have a contract and am committed to Penang.”
His family back home in the village of Kampung Pida 6, Tok Kepak were cheering and celebrating with joy as they watched Subri receive the award despite the fact the ceremony was held at around 2am in Malaysian time and most would be asleep on a regular day.
“I am very proud of my son. He always wanted to achieve big things in football, and today, he can stand tall,” his mother, Saadiah Ishak, states with pride.
“All his hard work has paid off. I am proud of my son. I am thankful to God for making our dreams a reality,” echoes his father, Subri Kader.
To say Faiz Subri’s victory brought pride to the nation would be an understatement. He has made the nation proud in one of the country’s most favoured sports, proven enough by the success of the sports drama film Ola Bola (2016), detailing the lives of Malaysian footballers and their big victory that awarded them entrance to the 1980s Summer Olympics.
Subri won by a majority vote of 59.46%, decided by online voters and way ahead of the other two finalists. His goal has been labelled as physics-defying, a free kick that caused the ball to leap into the air from a far-out range of 35 metres before curving downwards into the goal post.
The two runner-ups were Brazilian footballer Marlone, who had a total vote of 22.86% and Venezuelan Daniuska Rodriguez with a total vote of 10.01%. The former was nominated for his goal in the Corinthians vs Cobresal game while the latter was nominated for her impressive solo endeavour in a game of Venezuela vs Colombia.
One of the most interesting points of this victory is that the free kick was scored during the Malaysian Super League in a game between Pahang and Penang on the 16th of February last year. A match between two states in Malaysia—a relatively small game when placed in comparison to other matches and leagues on the global scale. Yet, the uniqueness of the goal caught the eyes of many on an international level in the world of football, proving that pure talent and hard-work does lead to great things and that the awards are reserved for those who truly deserve it.