Malaysian soccer fans were elated yesterday to wake up to the news that their countryman had won the FIFA Goal of the Year award for his extraordinary swerving free-kick.
Midfielder Mohamad Faiz Subri’s cracker for Penang in the Malaysian Super League in February, reminiscent of the swerving thunderbolt by Brazil’s Roberto Carlos against France in 1997, received almost 60 percent of the global vote on the FIFA Web site.
Dressed in a tuxedo, the player thanked his coach, team and his family as he accepted the accolade at the star-studded FIFA awards ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland, on Monday night, the first Asian to win the Puskas Award.
“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,” he said.
There was a light-hearted moment when the player fumbled with his phone on stage as he searched for his speech.
Co-host Hollywood star Eva Longoria playfully quipped: “He’s checking his text” to laughter from the crowd.
On Instagram, Faiz posted a picture of himself with Manchester United legend Alex Ferguson and tweeted another with Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo.
Malaysian fans took to Twitter to congratulate Faiz and said he had made the nation proud.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak led the tributes.
“Congratulations... your success in winning the award will bring inspiration to Malaysian footballers,” he wrote on Facebook.
Footage of the 29-year-old’s extraordinary goal went viral last year, making him a sensation in soccer-crazy Malaysia.