The Malaysian free-kick seen around the world
Could the real reason Cristiano Ronaldo stormed out of a Real Madrid press conference this week be he had just been shown a video of Faiz Subri's free-kick screamer and wanted to get to the training ground to see if he could match it? Far-fetched? Not as much as the goal itself.
It didn't really sink in that the free-kick was special until we watched it in the dressing room
If you talk about Malaysian football outside Asia, the responses tend to hover somewhere between sketchy and scathing. For those who have an idea about the on-pitch happenings, the narrative is commonly about last year's beastly sequence of national thrashings – 6-0 defeats to Palestine home and away, either side of a record 10-0 loss at the United Arab Emirates.
For those without that knowledge, match-fixing tends to be mentioned. This week though it's delightfully different and, for a while at least, any disparaging mention of football here can be rebuffed with a YouTube link and a smug smirk.
The whole of Malaysian football should be thanking Faiz Subri – even Pahang fans and players – after his exploits for Penang. The newly-promoted team, back in the top tier for the first time since 2010, was simply aiming to bouncing back from an opening day defeat at the hands of Terengganu.
Three points was what the team wanted, which they duly pocketed and more from a 4-1 win.
There was one negative about the free-kick that made the score 3-0 – it meant fans stopped talking about the others.
Faiz grabbed a wonderful first, spinning inside the area from a throw-in and then sending an outswinging low shot into the far corner. Then Matias Cordoba curled home higher into the net from outside the area. Even the fourth was easy on the eye. A break down the left, a perfect cross delivered on the run, and a towering header flying into the net.
Sadly these are destined to be forever sidelined, like the fact Aldous Huxley – author of Brave New World – died on the same day in November 1963 as JFK. And that's all thanks to goal number three.
“I think because the previous goals were also well taken it didn't really sink in that the free-kick was something special until after the game when we watched it in the dressing room,” Penang defender Brent Griffiths told FourFourTwo.
“All four goals were special in their own right.”
But there's special and there's special. Any attempt to describe such a goal simply is not going to do it justice, but it has to be tried.
It's the best free kick I've ever witnessed
The midfielder had a free-kick about 35 yards from goal and somewhere in the middle of the left side of the pitch. The wall was a perfunctory two players, just to make sure that nobody would be daft enough to try a shot at goal from such a distance.
Faiz tried and it flew just past the right side of the wall and looked to be curling towards the near post, as the goalkeeper clearly thought. But then it kept getting higher and higher and started to swerve like a ball has rarely swerved before. Still, it looked to be going well over and then, just at the last second it dipped and ended up hitting the inside of the far post, about halfway up.
It not only defied belief but seemed to defy physics. Not that anyone in the stadium or those watching live on television up and down the country cared.
It has already been reported on both in the Independent and the Daily Mirror newspaper sites in the UK, as well as in the United States, Australia and South America. A sub-heading in the Independent read: "Seriously – have you ever seen a long-range shot swerve as much as this?"
“It's the best free kick I've ever witnessed,” the Australian added. “My initial reaction was 'why's Faiz shooting from that angle, cross the ball'. But seeing the swerve on the ball shut me up quick!” Griffiths was not too surprised however. “Credit to Faiz he does that in training all the time.”
While that was quite a trick, the real one now is for Penang to build on the great result and the excitement it has generated. “I'd like to hope we can expect that every week, but as a team we're just happy to get the three points and if we can put a performance on like we did then even better,” Griffiths said.
Had Jacksen Tiago's men lost on Tuesday then the pressure would have slowly started to build. That may sound crazy for a newly-promoted team, but is just the way it is in Malaysia.
But at the moment, there is a bigger question.
Even Penang's Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng was sharing his disbelief with close to 300,000 followers on Twitter with the claim that Faiz had scored: “The best M'sian free kick goal ever n best in the world so far for 2016.”
Definitely the best M'sian free kick goal ever n best in the world so far for 2016.Penang football team making waves https://t.co/5g26FD8T8Z
— Lim Guan Eng (@cmlimguaneng) February 17, 2016
It may just be two games old but we have surely seen the goal of the MSL season. As the politician claims, it is surely the best goal so far in 2016 – anywhere. The question is if it can stay at the top all year. Malaysian fans will have a good time finding out and rejoicing in the fact their football is making some positive international headlines.
Main photo: Asiana.my