Penang FA and Malaysia's midfielder Mohd Faiz Subri. AFP

Malaysians are making waves abroad in various fields: sports, entertainment, literature, commerce and science. The latest in this list of champions is Penang footballer Mohd Faiz Subri, who made Malaysian football history when he won the 2016 Fifa Puskas Award, defeating even the best strikers of the world. He is also the first Asian to win the honour, making him not only a Malaysian football hero but also an Asian one. Given that football is the most popular sport in the world, played by such greats as Pelé of Brazil, Beckham of England and Neymar of Brazil, this is truly amongst the best achievements of the country. In other sporting events, Malaysia has won silver and bronze in the 2016 Rio Olympics, while three gold and a bronze were won by the country’s Paralympians in the Paralympics meet of the same year. The country has been taking home medals from other international meets, too, such as diving, gymnastics, cycling and others. Slowly, but surely, over the years, Malaysians have built up the country’s reputation for sporting excellence.

The entertainment world, too, has not been left untouched. For glamour, Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh’s success as a Bond girl in Tomorrow Never Dies opposite one-time Hollywood heart throb Pierce Brosnan was like having conquered Mount Everest. She, too, has achieved fame and fortune in the Hong Kong film industry as one of its top-billing actresses. Recently, the country’s leading stand-up comic, Harith Iskander, became 2016’s champion of The Funniest Person in the World. We must also not forget beautiful Yuna, or Yunalis Mat Zara’ai, who made it into the Billboard’s Top 10 R&B album chart. Prior to that, her single Crush, featuring international pop star Usher, made it to the United States Billboard Chart. Then, there is Shila Amzah, whose successes on the international stage have gained her honorific titles, such as “Princess of Music” and “Asia’s Sweetheart”.

In literature, author Tan Twan Eng, who was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2012, won the 2013 Man Asian Literary Prize for his novel, The Garden of Evening Mists. And then, there are the scientific breakthroughs, where Malaysians have joined the world scientific community making major discoveries while pursuing their PhD. As part of two teams, one made the breakthrough in confirming Einstein’s century-old prediction of gravitational waves in his theory of relativity. And, the other discovered the evidence of a supermassive black hole in what is practically our solar system’s backyard. Both studying in the United Kingdom now have this incredible intellectual attainment in their curriculum vitae as part of the scientific teams promising to further roll back the frontiers of astrophysics. Commercially, meanwhile, Malaysia has multinational corporations that operate in many countries, the leader being Petronas providing technical expertise in such countries as Sudan and Iran. It is ranked in Fortune Global 500 largest corporations in the world.

The upshot is that Malaysia, a small country of around 30 million, a still developing nation striving to escape the middle-income trap, is beginning to make its mark internationally. With many Malaysians already at the forefront of excellence in their fields, the country is looking good for 2020 and beyond.

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