Malaysia hails hero Faiz Subri as he becomes first Asian to win world football’s goal of the year award

Player joins greats such as Ronaldo and Messi after winning prize for strike that became viral sensation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 11:23am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2017, 11:28am

Malaysia was overjoyed on Tuesday as the country woke up to learn Mohd Faiz Subri had won Fifa’s Puskas Award for the best goal in world football in 2016.

Faiz, whose physics-defying long-range free-kick for Penang went viral online, was stunned as Brazilian legend Ronaldo read out his name at the gala in Zurich.

And his nervousness to be honoured in the same company as the likes of player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo were evident as he fumbled with his phone in an attempt to find his speech. “He’s checking his texts,” joked actress Eva Longoria, co-hosting the ceremony.

He is the first Asian to win the award, joining elite company such as Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

“I was a bit nervous at first but now I feel elated,” he said.

“Honestly, it never crossed my mind that I would arrive at this level and be able to stand tall among world class footballers in this amazing place.”

On Instagram, Faiz posted a picture of himself together with Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson, while he got the selfie he said he wanted with Ronaldo.

A photo posted by faiz subri (@faiz_subri13) on Jan 9, 2017 at 7:47am PST

Malaysian fans took to social media to hail his achievement as bringing glory to the nation. Prime Minister Najib Razak led the tributes.

“Congratulations... your success in winning the award will bring inspiration to Malaysian footballers,” he wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

“Another feather in Malaysia’s cap ... so proud to see a Malaysian shine on the world’s stage,” wrote one fan on Facebook.

News of the award dominated the headlines in Malaysia. Leading paper The Malaysian Star said Faiz had “made Malaysia proud”.

About 200 people gathered at Faiz’s father’s village to watch the awards on a giant screen in the small hours of the morning Malaysia time, the paper reported.

“All his hard work has paid off. I am proud of my son. I am thankful to God for making our dreams a reality,” the Star quoted his father as saying.

“Faiz should not be contented with this win. He should aim for more success. I want him to do it again. Score another goal like that to prove to everyone how good he really is.”

Ten finalists, chosen from thousands of goals scored around the world between September 2015 and September 2016, were revealed in November.

Faiz gained 59.66 per cent of the vote compared to Brazil’s Marlone (22.86 per cent) and Venezuela’s Daniuska Rodriguez (10.01 per cent), the other names on the shortlist.

Additional reporting by AFP