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 By Nicolas Anil

Faiz Subri could be Malaysia's saving grace with historical FIFA Puskas win

For a country that has wretchedly failed on the international stage and one mired deep with domestic issues, Malaysia could end up one of the biggest winners at the 2016 FIFA football awards.

Faiz Subri is the man they owe for that, the Penang forward who has already provided the biggest saving grace after ousting football's global stars Lionel Messi and Neymar to make the top-three shortlist of the FIFA Puskas award.

Should his famed knuckleball free kick end up bagging the gong ahead of Marlone and Daniuska Rodriguez, Faiz would be giving Malaysia one of its biggest-ever success in the global arena.

With one swoosh of his right boot, the ball he struck against Pahang FA took a perfect trajectory from the left, before deciding on a wicked change of direction to end up in the top right corner of Nasril Nourdin's goal.

It was a magical hit, cushioned with the perfect dexterity, its flight akin to a drone-controlled missile.

As of Dec. 22, Faiz's goal has been viewed over two million times on FIFA TV's Youtube channel, with many backing him to win the award.

Those who have watched him in action will tell you he is a master technician from distance, having netted sublime strikes for Terengganu and Kelantan before.

So what is his secret to striking the perfect dead ball?

"First your ankles must be strong, you will need a lot of power to generate distance from a dead ball. I also hit them [ball] right in the centre, near the tube where air is pumped into the ball," admits Faiz as he plods home similar free kicks in a tutorial.

Born in the nation's rice bowl of Kedah, the 29-year-old started his career in the Perlis league, before making his way into the state side north of Kedah.

Penang midfielder Faiz Subri
Faiz Subri was mobbed by his Penang FA teammates after the wonder goal.

T-Team came for him in 2012, but it was in Kelantan where the forward flourished under the guidance of Bojan Hodak.

After winning the FA Cup and finishing Malaysia Cup runner-up in 2013, Faiz left for Terengganu, before Penang came calling in 2015.

The diminutive player has yet to don national colours, despite twice being called up to the national squad by former coach K. Rajagobal in 2012 and 2013.

Faiz was again summoned to the national side by Dollah Salleh in August 2015 as an emergency replacement, but never saw action.

Even after his wonder goal in February, the former Perlis man was never part of Datuk Ong Kim Swee's plans for the national team.

Injuries and inconsistency have hampered that unfulfilled ambition, but perhaps that could change after the FIFA football awards in Zurich on Jan. 9, 2017.

Receiving the accolade for the most beautiful strike of the year -- dressed in either a dapper tuxedo or an equally cultured Baju Melayu amidst football's finest superstars-- could change a player in more ways than he can imagine.

So go on and make history, Faiz Subri.

You have already given Malaysia its biggest football cheer of 2016, but that goal deserves more than just a cheer.

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.

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