FIFA Puskas winner Faiz Subri returns home to hero's reception in Malaysia
Newly crowned FIFA Puskas winner Faiz Subri vowed to continue producing wonder goals after arriving home from Zurich to a raucous welcome on Wednesday afternoon.
The Penang forward's astounding free kick against Pahang last year netted him the best goal of 2016 at the FIFA Football Awards as he won a landslide victory to beat Corinthians' midfielder Marlone and Venezuela female star Daniuska Rodriguez.
"I will continue to practise these free kicks, and perhaps try and emulate that type of goal again. After this my focus shifts to Penang, and I will give my best for the coming season," said Faiz at a packed media conference at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The diminutive attacker became the first Asian to scoop the coveted award, which put him alongside previous winners in Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona star Neymar and Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and earned comparisons with free kick specialist David Beckham.
Faiz also made his way into the Malaysia Book of Records for becoming the first Malaysian to receive an honour from FIFA.
The softly spoken 29-year-old admits all the attention was overwhelming, but he promised to do his best to take it in his stride.
"The pressure will always be there after this, but all I can do is to perform to the best of my abilities on the pitch," said Faiz, who brushed aside criticism of his English skills.
Faiz was not given a Bahasa Malaysia translator for his speech, which he read from his mobile phone in English.
"I did my best to give that speech, it is up to them to say whatever they want."
Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, who was present for his return, also jumped to the player's defence.
"Those who criticised him has never got an international recognition. People need to recognise the magnitude of his feat before they speak," said Khairy.
His quality strike also landed Faiz a RM 150,000 bonus from the Sports Ministry and Football Association of Malaysia.
Faiz left for Penang immediately after a meet and greet session with around 500 fans.
He will have little time to revel in his feats as he prepares with Penang for their 2017 Malaysia Super League opener against Selangor on Jan. 21.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.