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KUALA LUMPUR, 10 Jan 2017:
Malaysia’s Mohd Faiz Subri has netted the FIFA Puskas Award for the most beautiful goal of 2016, putting his name on the same list as past winners such as famed football stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.
The 29-year-old player was handed the award for his spellbinding freekick at a glittering ceremony in Zurich yesterday (early this morning in Malaysia) as he brought joy to millions of Malaysians thousands of kilometres away from the wintry conditions of the lakeside Swiss city.
Mohd Faiz also created history as the first Asian to be bestowed the gong – named after Ferenc Puskas, the Hungarian football legend who enjoyed huge success with Real Madrid during the 1950s and 60s as well as his national team.
“Honestly, it has 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,” the Penang striker said after receiving the award.
Kedah-born Mohd Faiz received his gong during The Best FIFA Football Awards 2016 that was broadcast around the globe and live-streamed on the Internet from the Technology and Production Centre Switzerland.
Mohd Faiz, who garnered 59.46% of the votes, thanked a host of people – including his team, family and fans for their support.
“To the FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) and FMLLP (Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership), I owe so much to you for submitting my goal (to FIFA) for evaluation.”
The Malaysian footballer pipped Brazil’s Johnath Marlone Azevedo da Silva (22.86% of votes) and Venezuela’s woman player Daniuska Rodriguez (10.01%) to the award, first won by Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.
Cristiano also clinched The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2016 award in Zurich. The award was presented to him by former Brazilian football great Ronaldo.
Mohd Faiz was the architect of what has been described as a physics-defying swerving goal against Pahang in the Malaysian Super League match on Feb 16 last year – deemed so spectacular that it catapulted him to international recognition.
The ball was heading towards one corner but ended up deceptively in the other, leaving the Pahang goalkeeper – and football fans – dumbfounded.
Mohd Faiz described his win as a dream becoming a reality besides being fortunate to be able to be with football greats in Zurich.
Even though yet to don the national jersey, his is very proud he was able to bring glory for Malaysia.
“I am grateful to have won, I wish thank all who voted for me in Malaysia and throughout the world. Not forgetting my family, coaches and the Penang team.
“Without their support, this win would not be possible because the other candidates in the running also scored great goals.”
He said being the first Asian to win the Puskas Award is a career defining moment for him.
The goal, he stressed, was not pure luck but due to hours of practice each day.
Mohd Faiz added the success was a source of inspiration for him in conjunction with the new year to further hone his footballing skills in the years to come.
After Portugal’s Ronaldo, the Puskas Award was won by Turkey’s Hamit Altintop (2010), Brazil’s Neymar (2011), Miroslav Stoch of Slovakia (2012), Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2013) and James Rodriguez from Colombia (2014).
A virtually unknown player from Brazil, Wendell Lira, took home the 2015 award.
The shortlist comprising Mohd Faiz, Marlone and Rodriguez was whittled down from an original 10 goals.
Meanwhile, Mohd Faiz’s wife Norzanis Hashim, who accompanied him to Zurich, said: “Athough I was not at the awards’ venue tonight, I was with him in spirit and prayed for his success.
“As soon as his name was announced as the winner, I was very thankful that the prayers of Malaysians for his success were answered.”
Reuters reported Cristiano Ronaldo won FIFA’s player of the year award for the fourth time, beating his old rival Lionel Messi – who was pulled out of the ceremony only a few hours earlier by his club Barcelona.
Five-times winner and four-times runner-up Messi was second and Frenchman Antoine Griezmann third.
Ronaldo previously won in 2008, 2013, 2014 with Messi second on each occasion. Messi won from 2009-12 and then again in 2015 with Ronaldo second on every occasion except in 2010 when Andres Iniesta was runner-up.
Barcelona said that tomorrow’s game against Athletic Bilbao would take priority over the ceremony and that none of their invited players would travel, which disappointed Ronaldo.
“I would like Messi to have been here today but they have an important game on Wednesday and we can understand that,” he said after accepting the award from FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
“I don’t have much more to say, I think the awards speak for themselves,” he added. “I’m very happy and I can say that 2016 was the best year of my career, the trophy shows that people aren’t blind and watch the games.”
Italian Claudio Ranieri won the coach of the year award for leading rank outsiders Leicester City to the English Premier League title.
Ranieri said he was “crazy” after winning the coach’s award ahead of Fernando Santos, who led Portugal to the Euro 2016 title.
“I am crazy now,” he said. “What happened last season in England was something strange. The football gods said Leicester must win.”
FIFA, which organised the award jointly with France Football magazine from 2010 to 2015 when it was named the Ballon d’Or, rebranded it as “The Best” this year after splitting with the French publication.
France Football continued with its own award which was also won by Ronaldo last month.
The ceremony, previously held at the Kongresshaus theatre in central Zurich, this year took place in the much more modest setting of a television studio on an industrial estate near the airport.
Colombian side Atletico Nacional were given the Fair Play Award for conceding to Copa Sudamericana title to Brazilian side Chapecoense, whose team was decimated when a plane taking to the final crashed, killing 71 people.
“We did nothing more than what we had to do….handing them this trophy as a gesture of hope,” said club president Juan Carlos de La Cuesta.
American Carli Lloyd won the women’s player of the year award for the second year in a row.