CONGRATULATIONS to Faiz Subri for being awarded the Fifa Puskas Award for his outstanding freekick goal for Penang against Pahang on Feb 16 last year.
The 29-year player who hails from Ayer Hitam in Kedah but dons Penang colours, has become an overnight star.
Credit must be given as he is the first Asian to win the award inaugurated in 2009.
However, as rightly pointed out by Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, there is no need to place Faiz on a pedestal.
The Crown Prince has blamed the media and social media for hyping up Faiz’s achievement and by all indications it is not going to stop.
In fact, the circus has just began.
As Faiz touched down on Wednesday afternoon, the FA of Malaysia announced a monetary reward of a total of RM150,000 (RM100,000 from the Sports Ministry and RM50,000 from FAM).
The Penang government promised him RM50,000.
Celebrations have begun in Penang. Kedah, where he kicked off his career as an Under-21 President’s Cup player (2006-2008), have also joined in the and even have plans for a road show. More rewards are expected to pour in.
Faiz scored 10 goals to help them earn promotion to the Super League in 2015. But, apart from his wonder goal, he failed to shine last year due to injuries.
Politicians have joined the bandwagon to share in Faiz’s limelight, for their political mileage.
Faiz will be awarded the Bintang Semangat Jerai Kedah in conjunction with the Sultan of Kedah, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah’s 89th birthday celebrations next week and it will come as no surprise if he is given a Datukship!
The recognition is well and good but we have to ask, what is it going to do for Malaysian football?
Maybe Penang FA setting up a football academy with Faiz as the icon, could be a better way to inspire youngsters.
We need to think out of the box and not get overly excited on matters which will not change the status of Malaysian football. We are ranked No 161 in the world.
For all we know, Faiz could well fade away to obscurity.
The problem with Malaysian sports is that we are so starved of “real successes” that we rejoice and go overboard with any recognition without weighing it in the right context.
Tunku Ismail may have sounded harsh or unappreciative but he was speaking the truth and putting the matter into perspective.
He had said in his statement: “I would rather be hated for stating the truth than loved for stating unsubstantiated facts.”
He added: “This is a good individual achievement, but we must ask, where does the national football stand in terms of corruption, international standing, and team management in comparison to teams like Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines or Indonesia that are on a constant and rapid incline. So what have I got to be proud of?
“It’s true Faiz’s achievement is good, but when FAM stated his achievement is a benchmark for Malaysian football, I beg to differ. He’s only scored one goal, and apart from that, he’s been oblivious throughout the season.
“To place him on the pedestal and be comfortable with our current standing now, is not right. This is why the football in Malaysia and our country cannot progress in every aspect. “
The Crown Prince was also spot on when he said he will be prouder to give recognition to players such as Zainal Abidin Hassan, Dollah Salleh, Santokh Singh, Amri Yahyah, Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan, Safee Sali, Badrol Radzi, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Khairul Fahmi Che Mat and Hairuddin Omar as they not only scored goals every season, but they’ve also achieved success in the clubs they represented.
“We should also give recognition for their contributions to the national team too,” he added.
Indeed there are more important issues to address in Malaysian football such as our integrity and the current reputation of our national football.
It is without doubt that many will disagree with views expressed, but sometimes the truth hurts.
Let us for the love of the game and the nation’s football status, start doing the right things to see our standard rise to a respectable level again.
Only one or two teams alone cannot champion the cause. It has to be a national agenda and a collective effort of all.
TONY is a sports journalist with close to four decades of experience and is passionate about local sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org