Dear Malaysia, maybe Faiz Subri’s Puskas Award isn’t about you?

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Photo Credit: FIFA

Ridiculous.

For all the years I’ve spent reading, writing and speaking, it was strange that I found it difficult to pick a superlative to describe the barrage of criticism Faiz Subri has been receiving on social media, be it for his English proficiency, his decision to speak in English or even the fact that he opted to not wear a Baju Melayu.

To be fair, it’s not like this should even come across as a surprise. A large cross-section of our society is still trapped in a detrimental colonial mindset, that consistently seeks to undermine efforts and achievements of our own people. It’s why the Malaysian music scene doesn’t get as much appreciation as it deserves. It’s probably why Malaysian football continues to struggle for viewership, while bars and restaurants go wild on promotions for English Premier League coverage.

On one hand, you’ve got people slamming him for not being able to execute an English speech with conviction. On the other hand, you’ve got a select few that have made an attempt to hijack the narrative of Faiz Subri’s outfit for the ceremony and turn it into a cultural fracas. But the most outrageous attack on Faiz came via an article that was published on Malaysiakini.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

“To be sure, Malaysian football and other sports fans are delighted by Faiz’s achievement in winning the Puskas award. However, if they watched the footage of his moment in the spotlight, whatever pride they must have felt over Faiz being chosen as winner would have been diminished by his shambling performance on being called to receive the prize and say a few words. The emcees’ interjections, aimed at alleviating the uneasiness felt by the live audience as Faiz fumbled to locate and then read his digital text, only served to accentuate the embarrassment,” a certain Terence Netto wrote.

If it wasn’t horrendous enough that he made a feeble attempt at suggesting that Faiz’s on-stage antics were embarrassing for everyone who witnessed it, the writer goes on to play the ‘Malaysian-pride’ card to steal the thunder from what was an incredibly personal moment for Faiz Subri and his family.

Is it really that difficult to comprehend that this isn’t about Malaysia at all? This isn’t about our failing education system. This isn’t about our footballers and how they lack PR skills. This isn’t about Malaysian football and the doldrums that it continuously festers in. Most importantly, this isn’t about a Malaysian’s failed attempt at representing the country on the global stage.

Photo Credit: FIFA
Photo Credit: FIFA

When Wendell Lira teared on stage after receiving the Puskas Award in January 2016, the entire world stood up and clapped in awe. To everyone, including Brazilians, it wasn’t about his team and nationality. It was purely about a man, who spent a large chunk of his life dreaming about being the best in the business, standing in front of undisputed legends of the game, after having to fight hard throughout his career. It didn’t matter if he barely spoke a word of English. It didn’t matter if he couldn’t control his emotions on the stage, like the rest were able to.

If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Faiz Subri, you’d know that he’s one of the humblest figures you will ever come across within the local football scene. And that’s closely tied to his upbringing as well. He was just a regular teenager, who caught the attention of many while playing for a technical school in Arau, Perlis. He probably ate nasi lemak and drank sirap, before going on to sit in front of the television and stare in awe as Ronaldo El Fenomeno destroyed Germany in the 2002 World Cup final, like we all did. But on Monday, unlike the rest of us, Faiz Subri received the Puskas Award from the Brazilian legend himself.

Photo Credit: FIFA
Photo Credit: FIFA

These are moments that rarely exists outside the silver screen. In just 11 months, the 29 year-old scored an outrageous goal, went viral throughout the internet, got himself shortlisted for the Puskas Award, made the final three list, met Sir Alex Ferguson, sat behind Manuel Neuer, took a selfie with Cristiano Ronaldo and received a goal-related award from arguably the greatest goal scorer to have ever graced the game.

You don’t need to be a Malaysian to celebrate Faiz Subri’s moment. You shouldn’t look at it from the point of view of a Malaysian either. There’s nothing about it that boosts Malaysia or the profile of Malaysian football – true. You only need to be a regular human being to be happy for a man who fulfilled his childhood dream, which at some point, seemed entirely impossible. A regular human being, that’s all you need to be.

Feel free to be the bastion of hope and push a national agenda with regards to English proficiency and on-stage composure, if you see fit. But is it really that difficult to let a guy have his moment for one day, be nervous, anxious and stutter while his entire mind explodes in radiant ecstasy, in front of legends he idolised as a kid? Is it really that difficult?

  • Oblie

    After reading some shitty criticism about Faiz, I couldn’t facepalm any harder. They are focusing all the wrong things from his achievement. But you stood differently. It’s about a man achieving his dream through hard earned effort which subsequently made his country proud. Thank you.

  • Ady Adnan

    There is so many so called “Keyboard Warrior” who actually love bashing for anything to release their ordinary life tension office and ordinary life. Saaad isnt?

  • محمد اروان خضير

    Dont bother with few criticism because they cant play football and even doing curveball. They only can speak english. We dont need english in football, what we need is goal!!!

  • Sheila Philip

    As I understand it, Malay was NOT one of the language options given to him for his speech. I heard his speech, and I think he did EXTREMELY well! Yes, he fumbled, but HEY, even the most brilliant English speaker would fumble under the same circumstances, having so much attention focused on them! Faiz did a wonderful job. I understood every word he said, and I am so very happy that he managed to achieve this amazing award through his own skills. It has nothing to do with his command of language… it has everything to do with his football skills and nobody can take that away from him. Well done Faiz! Well done indeed!

  • Susanne Sommers

    Well said. Excellent article!!

  • NinaNina N

    Agree with the author/article. In fact, I don’t find him an embarrassment at all (about the speech, the suit whatsoever). Rather, I find him so polite with his smile and keep nodding (as a sign of respect to others) while he was on stage and also off stage. He is humble. Me too dont understand why Malaysians questioning his speech, make a fuss not talking in Malay, suddenly want him to show some Hang Tuah history.. oh my.. please la.. other Mat Salleh also got vast history but they dont bother to be all crazy not during football award time la. The thing about Malaysian, whenever theres so called opportunity (actually wrong timing) – last time the so called out astronout – suddenly want to supply nasi lemak, roti canai in space.. aiyo! – they want to show Malay culture. Why? You want to show Malay culture to the world, work ur ass off Tourism Malaysia (tourism malaysia still fail to make Malaysia become known worldwide thus far), work ur ass off in universities dept studying those things like producing more research phd works. in other words use the right sphere. So dont use Faiz. Faiz is a footballer. Of course he wont talk that much. Hes not politician. Please use ur sixth sense if your five senses fail to figure out and understand things about Faiz.

  • thewayoftruthnlight

    well put

  • Oppa-H-ang

    I found that the same person that bashing Faiz, will probably will share your article and agree with it. They will always find to justify their previous action. It is indeed strange as like they never committed the sin. Your article sir, is right on. This is Faiz personal moment.

  • drska

    These so called keyboard warrior in Malaysia always butthurt whenever something interesting happen and will always find a way to make it viral through their ridiculous and pathetic comment. Just ignore these troll Faiz!

  • Shamsul Kamal Ismail

    It was about Football, about Football’s recognition of an ability and about Fair Subri.
    It was never about English, neither about Malaysians nor about Malaysia. It was only about Faiz Subri and Football!

  • Abdul Khalid Abdullah

    I am bloody proud of this boy, I mean man! What he has achieved may be a dream for many others, especially the future budding young footballers all over the world!
    It is not a surprise to hear the criticisms coming in from all quarters of the social media world in Malaysia. It just shows how good they are in finding issues about all others but themselves! It also shows clearly their bravery in front of the keyboard!
    He was dressed the way he was dressed because of the term “black coat and tie” dress code for the event? He was struggling to find his acceptance speech because his humility did not expect him to win? He struggled with his English because its not his first language(they should watch how the foreign managers of EPL clubs speak on TV!)? We all jnow the answers to all those questions! But many chose to just whack him because…
    Why don’t we just celebrate his success. Not many or probably none of us would ever get the opportunity to be where he has ventured into. To score a beauty of a goal and be awarded for it by a great goal getter like Ronaldo!
    Mohd Faiz.. Alhamdulillah… Jangan dihiraukan katakata mereka. Teruskan perjuangan awak…

  • Raizzen

    You tell these mangkuks man!