When Cristiano Ronaldo collected the ball 40 yards from goal at the Estadio do Dragao in April 2009, few expected him to have the audacity to shoot, fewer to score and nobody to consequently become the inaugural recipient of an award honouring one of football’s most prolific posters of wonder goals. That, though, is exactly what happened, the Portuguese’s rocket earning Manchester United a 1-0 win over Porto and him the FIFA Puskas Award. "I am very proud of this award, it's a great honour for me," said Ronaldo upon being presented with the prize at the last December’s FIFA World Player Gala.
Now ten players are vying to savour that feeling, namely Hamit Altintop, Matthew Burrows, Linus Hallenius, Lionel Messi, Samir Nasri, Neymar, Arjen Robben, Siphiwe Tshabalala, Giovanni van Bronckhorst or Kumi Yokoyama, and like last year it’s up to you, the FIFA.com users, to vote for a winner.
“All ten nominated goals were very exciting moments, so the voters have to make a difficult choice,” Van Bronckhorst, in the running due to the inconceivable thunderbolt that set the Netherlands en route to victory over Uruguay in their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ semi-final, told FIFA.com.
“As a young boy I dreamed of scoring goals like that. In 1982, at the age of eight, I watched the World Cup for the very first time on television and it made a huge impression on me. The great dribbles of Diego Maradona, the fantastic attacking football of Brazil, and of course the unforgettable goal and emotions of Italy’s Marco Tardelli. And now my goal against Uruguay is also part of World Cup history, and that makes me enormously proud.”
Van Bronckhorst is not the only man in contention due to a strike in South Africa. And while the now-retired Dutchman’s master stroke came towards the end of what was a memorable tournament, the other was its maiden goal. It came courtesy of Tshabalala, who latched on to Kagiso Dikgacoi’s 40-yard, defence-parting through-ball and viciously flung the ball into the top corner from distance to put the host nation ahead against Mexico.
"It’s an honour to be nominated for the Puskas award,” the 26-year-old Kaizer Chiefs midfielder told FIFA.com. “Scoring the opening goal at the World Cup, and in my home country, was something special. I have replayed it a number of times in my mind. It brought a special feeling to me, one I cannot easily describe in words. In my opinion that goal set the tone for the tournament.”
It was a tournament Argentina’s Messi curiously failed to find the target in, but the Barcelona No10 nonetheless finds himself in contention due to the mercurial dribble and finish he registered against Valencia.
"It was a beautiful goal because it was picked by FIFA as one of the best goals of the year,” Messi told FIFA.com. “People can choose as they wish. I think each of the [ten] goals means a lot to the scorer, his or her friends, and above all the fans that celebrated it.”
Yokoyama, whose inclusion on the shortlist owes to her Messi-esque goal for Japan against Korea DPR during the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, was thrilled to see her name alongside that of the Argentinian superstar.
“I’m very happy I have been nominated,” she told FIFA.com. "It is just unbelievable to be on the list with Messi and other big-name players. When I received the ball, I had already decided to take it all the way by myself, but I was surprised I was surrounded by so many defenders.”
Arsenal’s Nasri, Santos revelation Neymar and Robben of Bayern Munich also had to navigate their way past multiple opponents en route to scoring breathtaking goals against Porto, Santo Andre and Schalke. "A force of nature, a hurricane, a miracle of biblical proportions," said Munich newspaper Abendzeitung of the Dutchman’s effort, which snatched the Bavarian giants a place in the DFB-Pokal final.
Speaking to FIFA.com, Robben spoke of his pride at both scoring such a stunning strike and on being shortlisted for the award. He said: "It is always nice to be nominated. To score such a great goal is always a very special feeling. It is important for me if it is a important goal. If the score is 3-0 or 4-0 and you score one to makeit 5-0 it is also nice, but in this case against Schalke it was really something special.
"I've scored a lot of goals but this was one of the nicest. It was in the 112. minute and I start running in our half. This was a fantastic run. I guess we will not win [the trophy]. The goals from the Swedish and Irish guys are amazing. You manage goals like these only once in your lifetime."
The remaining three contenders were all volleys, though Burrows’ came with his back to goal and via his heel to grab Glentoran victory over Portadown. “I could maybe try to do that 100 times and it would only come off once,” said the 25-year-old. “I caught it perfectly. The whole thing is unreal and it's only just sinking in."
Altintop’s impeccable strike came for Turkey against Kazakhstan and he again was proud that his exploits were being appreciated. He told FIFA.com: "A friend of mine told me that I’m nominated. That is a cool thing. For me it was the most beautiful goal of my career. But there are a lot great goals nominated. The goal from Sweden impressed me the most. If I win the trophy it would be amazing."
While Hallenius’s, receiving plaudits from many of his fellow contenders, was from such a tight angle that it has been compared to Marco van Basten’s immortalised gem for the Netherlands against Soviet Union. ”It’s very flattering to be a part of such a renowned group of footballers, a bit unreal actually,” enthused the 21-year-old Hammarby forward. “In a competition there is always the chance of winning, but I don’t have any expectations - I’m happy just to be nominated."