We are so proud of you, Faiz!

Mohd Faiz Subri holds his trophy after winning The 2016 FIFA Puskas Award during The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony, on January 9, 2017 in Zurich. - AFP

Whether he spoke flawless English is not the point here. What matters is that he took home Fifa’s prestigious Puskas Award for the best goal of 2016 – a first for the country and for Asia.

THE controversy over Malaysian football star Mohd Faiz Subri’s poor command of English has died down but I need to get this out of my chest – these fault finders seriously deserve a kick in their chin, butt or any part of their body where it hurts.

Why would anyone care if this 29-year-old Penangite could speak the Queen’s English when he has been presented an award for the best goal in the world?

What should matter is that he took home Fifa’s prestigious Puskas Award for the best goal of 2016, a first for his country and for Asia. That’s about it. Nothing more than that. All the c**p – and I apologise for the use of this crass term to the uppity lot who pick on someone’s standard of English – that Faiz should learn to speak better, does not matter one bit.

Faiz was criticised by a columnist in Malaysiakini for his poor spoken English while some netizens took offence that the Penang FA footballer did not wear the baju Melayu when he received his award, despite having taken two pairs with him, given to him by NGOs.

The Puskas Award was presented to Faiz, courtesy of a spectacular free kick in a Super League match against Pahang last February, with the ball swerving from an “impossible” angle into the right corner of the net.

The video clip of Mohd Faiz’s spectacular free kick which was first uploaded by FIFATV on YouTube has been viewed more than 2.5 million times while clips of his Puskas rivals Johnath Marlone Azevedo da Silva (Brazil) and Venezuela’s woman player Daniuska Rodriguez only garnered over a million views.

Here’s this ordinary Penang boy, stepping on the global stage for the first time and must be still trying to figure out if he was just dreaming – surely we could understand why he was nervous.

He wasn’t a household name nor was he the best among Malaysian footballers but there he was, sharing the same space with his icon Cristiano Ronaldo and to top it off, to be presented with the trophy by Brazilian football legend Ronaldo.

I bet he still goes to sleep with a smile on his face. Bravo! Most of us can only dare to dream but not all of us can have our dreams come true! Faiz, yours did. We are so proud of you. No one should take that glory from you just because you cannot speak flawless English.

Those who have criticised you have not been watching football, for sure. Just watch how many top football names speak English on television. Either their standard of English is bad or heavily-accented despite having lived many years in England.

I am certainly not defending the poor command of English but merely to put things in the right perspective.

As a reader rightly posted on a news portal: “Faiz was there to receive Fifa’s best goal for 2016 award, not to compete in Toastmasters International contest, where the world champion of public speaking is chosen” while another said: “He is a football player, not a teacher or a politician. So why all the fuss?”

Another posted: “Let us not be too critical of him. Not many get a chance to stand on a world stage surrounded by emperors and kings of football and in front of dozens of TV cameras and flashing lights.”

“He should not be expected to speak proper English. In fact, he should not be expected to even understand the language at all. Even Brazilian football legend Ronaldo, the person who presented the award to him, spoke in Portuguese and an interpreter translated it.”

Yet another posted: “He is a footballer and he does his talking on the pitch, as he did when he scored that beautiful goal.”

Really, those who belittled Faiz over his poor command of English should ask themselves if they can comfortably do the same in the national language, which they should be proficient in.

And now, on the suit Faiz decided to put on that night.

“I had to wear three layers of clothes. Those who were there would know how cold it was,” the Penang player reportedly said, referring to the winter in Switzerland, with sub-zero Celsius temperature.

Yes, let us all give Faiz credit for trying. He has explained that the award show hosts had asked that he spoke in either English, French or Spanish, so he was left with no option.

If there is any lesson to learn from here – Faiz is a product of our national school system. We have neglected the English language which Malaysians used to be proficient in and were proud of but let’s face it, politicians killed it.

They are to be blamed, not Faiz, or many other young Malaysians. In many other countries, it is the young who can speak English better than the older ones but in Malaysia, it’s the reverse – older Malaysians, who were schooled in English, are largely proficient but the young ones are struggling with the language. In many cases, it is simply hopeless.

And just when young Malaysians are struggling with English, another reality is that Mandarin is set to become a global language. It will become another international language very soon.

Those who are unable to speak Mandarin – including this writer who cannot speak or write this important language – will fall behind.

I am 56 years old this year and I still want to be able to converse in Chinese at the very least. Young Malaysians must understand that the world is changing. It will not wait for anyone.

In many European countries, especially the Scandinavian ones, most people are able to speak in other languages apart from their native tongue.

Foreigners are hugely impressed with our ability to speak in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin, Tamil and some other dialects, too. It is this linguistic ability that have helped us get businesses and secure jobs.

This is an asset, people.

Those who argue otherwise are simply acknowledging their own disability to improve themselves and thus have to defend their own inadequacies and worse, do it on nationalistic and racial grounds.

The more disturbing fact is this – our political elites are sending their children overseas, especially to Britain, to learn, speak and write proper English while ordinary Malaysians are deprived of such a privilege.

These elites continue to justify our education policy – which could do with a lot of improvement – at the expense of Malaysia and Malaysians.

That is not all. We know that the string of distinctions many Malaysian students have scored has created a false sense of competency and confidence, especially when these super scorers, who all think they should be doctors and engineers, are confronted with the harsh reality – that their string of As are actually Cs and Ds at the international level.

Faiz, you deserve all the accolades for your super goal. You have done Malaysia mighty proud. You have written the speech at your best ability and you have prevailed.

We want more than anything that you do not lose your head. And please don’t think of having a Datukship. We already have enough Datuks in this country (!) but there’s only one Faiz – the Faiz who scored that awesome goal.

If there’s anyone who deserves to get the kick – besides the critics – it is also the Football Association of Malaysia. It should have done better to help Faiz with the speech and help him face the world’s cameras.

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