He is little known outside his homeland, but Malaysia’s Mohd Faiz Subri could beat soccer superstars Lionel Messi and Brazilian Neymar to FIFA’s Puskas award for the year’s best goal.
Faiz’ s spectacular swerving free-kick for Penang against Pahang FC in a Malaysian Super League match in February has made the shortlist for the prestigious award, alongside strikes from his more illustrious contemporaries.
Messi’s curling free-kick for Argentina against the US men’s team and Neymar’s overhead kick and volley for Barcelona against Villareal also feature on the 10-strong list for 2016.
Faiz, standing 20 yards outside the penalty area on the left as he faced the goal, struck his free-kick to the left of a two-man wall. The ball curved sharply to the right as it neared the goal and beat goalkeeper Mohd Nasril Nourdin at his left-hand post.
“I never expected to be nominated for the Puskas award,” Faiz, 29, told CNN.
The stunning goal, reminiscent of the long-range bending freekicks of Brazilian great Roberto Carlos, became an internet favourite.
Faiz was reportedly given a cash reward of MYR 10,000 ($2,260) by the Penang government.
The FAP (Football Association of Penang) auctioned off his jersey, shorts, socks and boots he wore in the match — all signed by the striker — with a reserve price of MYR 100,000 ($23,000).
“It’s an honor to be mentioned in the same breath as Roberto Carlos,” Faiz told The Star Malaysia.
The Puskas award is named after legendary Hungarian player Ferenc Puskas, who won three European Cups with Real Madrid between 1959 and 1966.
The other players on the shortlist are Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Mario Gaspar (Spain), Hlompho Kekana (South Africa), Marlone (Corinthians), Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales), Daniuska Rodriguez (Venezuela) and Simon Skrabb (Gefle).
Online voting will close on December 2 with the top three goals going to a second round of voting. The winner will be announced at FIFA’s annual awards ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland on January 9 2017.