- Malaysian Mohd Faiz Subri won the 2016 FIFA Puskás Award
- Winning strike was a swerving long-range free kick
- Subri’s goal was praised by Brazil legend Roberto Carlos
Earlier this year, at the TPC Studios in Zurich on 9 January, there was a last call for voting for the FIFA Puskás Award. The large screen inside the hall, decorated in the livery of the inaugural The Best FIFA Football Awards™, showed the final three nominated goals. This was most likely the first time that some of the footballing greats inside the hall had seen the stunning strikes.
One such person was FIFA World Cup™ winner Roberto Carlos, no stranger to fiercely-struck swerving free kicks, who likely took great notice of Mohd Faiz Subri’s near-physics-defying set-piece, which claimed the 2016 FIFA Puskás Award. The Brazilian legend, it later transpired, would seek out the Malaysian to congratulate him on the goal and the award. That is perhaps an indication of what a life-changing moment it was for the Penang forward.
Recalling the whirlwind days in snowy Zurich, at the end of which he claimed the 2016 Puskás Award, Subri beamed. “Roberto Carlos said to me that it was a wonderful goal,” he said, speaking to FIFA.com.
As well as the former left-back, Subri mingled with an array of high profile names from the world of football. A Manchester United fan, he was delighted to meet Sir Alex Ferguson and his idol - and The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016 - Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as Manuel Neuer and the man who gave him his trophy: O Fenômeno Ronaldo.
Subri’s acceptance speech will surely go down as one of the more remarkable moments in the history of FIFA’s awards ceremonies. Spending a few moments scrolling through his phone, having collected his award from the Brazilian legend, several seconds passed before he eventually started reading from his mobile.
“In that case, my translator and friend had helped me with the speech,” Subri laughed. “Actually, we’d already prepared it. I left the printed version in my hotel room. Then when we realised, my friend sent another copy of the speech to my phone via WhatsApp! I was a bit nervous when I was declared as the winner.
“I read the speech again and again to try to remember it. I think, in the end, I did a good job on stage,” Subri concluded with a knowing smile.
The journey that took him to that stage started with a lot of hard work on the training pitch. Spending at least 15-20 minutes after every single training session with his club side Penang allowed Subri to perfect the stunning swerve that famously deceived Mohd Nasril Nourdin in the Pahang goal way back in February 2016. After that moment, Subri was catapulted to fame in his native Malaysia and worldwide, with millions voting for his goal to win the award. Unsurprisingly, the increased interest has had a knock-on effect, on the pitch.
“The opposition certainly put more players in the wall, and the goalkeepers, I think, are aware of my ability to make the ball swerve again and again,” Subri said.
2016 FIFA Puskás Award voting results:
59.46% - Mohd Faiz Subri (Penang v Pahang, Malaysian Super League)
22.86% - Marlone *(Corinthians v Cobresal, Copa Libertadores)
*10.01% - Daniuska Rodriguez *(Venezuela v Colombia, Women’s U-17 Sudamericano Championship)
*7.68% - Others
But what was behind the Subri phenomenon, the surge in popularity that saw him claim the award?
“The response from the public was awesome,” Subri smiled. “Most of the nominations, I think, usually come from Europe or South America, and more traditional footballing nations. It’s not common to have a nomination from Malaysia, or even an Asian country. Also, people in Malaysia always have their smartphone stuck to their hand! So it was certainly easy for Malaysians to vote for me.”
As a result of his continued training ground practice, Subri has gone close to replicating his wonder-strike, hitting the crossbar – before a team-mate turned home – against Melaka in the Malaysian Super League. As he has not managed to replicate his own effort, he named a couple of potential favourites for this year’s award.
“I think the goal by Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the scorpion kick [for Manchester United against Sunderland],” Subri said. “In fact, there were two goals that week which were amazing and quite similar, one by Olivier Giroud [for Arsenal against Crystal Palace] and the other by Mkhitaryan. Both, I think, are strong candidates for the 2017 award.”
Subri will no doubt be eagerly watching when the ten goals on this year’s shortlist are revealed later this month. It will certainly take some goal to follow the Malaysian’s remarkable swerving free kick which drew praise from one of the masters of the art of scoring sensational goals.