The People’s Puskas Award: Incredible grassroots goals overlooked for FIFA prize

From Mohamed Salah to Neymar to Cristiano Ronaldo, some of the biggest names in the game have won FIFA’s Puskas Award since its inception in 2009 — but has their star status helped them win the prize ahead of a host of unknown players?

The global prize for the most beautiful goal scored in a calendar year has been won by strikes netted in the Premier League, the Champions League and at the World Cup, as well as in various other elite-level competitions around the globe.

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According to FIFA’s criteria, any goal captured on film is technically eligible to win the Puskas Award. Polish amputee footballer Marcin Oleksy is one of the three finalists for the 2022 award, up against Marseille‘s Dimitri Payet and Tottenham Hotspur‘s Richarlison,

The three finalists are chosen by a global fan vote from a shortlist selected by FIFA, and then a panel from world football’s governing body decides the winner. Yet still the “lowest” level competition to produce a winner is the Campeonato Goiano (Wendell Lira, 2015), a professional state cup organised by the Brazilian Football Confederation.

Each and every year millions of equally impressive wonder goals are scored at grassroots level that routinely fail to garner the attention and recognition they truly deserve. Thankfully, Danish sports-tech company Veo is attempting to redress the balance by offering a platform to better promote all of the very best goals scored at non-league and amateur level each week, the world over.

Ahead of The Best FIFA Football Awards gala in Paris on Feb. 27, when this year’s Puskas Award will be announced, Veo has launched a campaign to shine a spotlight on the best goals at grassroots level by asking fans to submit their #PeoplesPuskas contenders. To kick things off, it has produced its own shortlist of the eight best amateur goals scored in 2022.

1. Kieren Crighton (Forfar United)

Not to be confused with Scottish League Two club Forfar Athletic, United are an amateur side who play in the same Scottish city as their semi-professional neighbours. Crighton scored his magnum opus by connecting with an outrageous scissor kick to redirect a deep, searching ball over the goalkeeper and underneath the crossbar.

2. Oliver Johansen (Kareby Herrfotboll)

Swedish club Kareby were thwarted by the goalkeeper and the ball ricocheted around the edge of the box until Johansen pivoted on the spot to finish things with a magnificent 20-yard volley that clanged in off the woodwork.

3. Jodi Cornwall (Ilminster Ladies FC)

With a floated cross from the right wing bobbling awkwardly behind her, Cornwall made the best of the situation by taking a touch and swinging through 270 degrees to score with a spontaneous acrobatic half-volley.

4. Oli Babington (Clevedon Town)

Babington’s monstrous 40-yard volley was (unofficially) crowned “Non-League Goal of the Year” by his club after the clip went viral on social media last January, even earning him an acknowledgement from FIFA: “Last Monday, the Puskas Award winner was crowned. This could well be a contender next time.” Despite the commendation, Babington’s incredible long-range effort was not on the official 2022 Puskas Award shortlist.

5. Ryan Hardy (Future Elite Academy)

Hardy kept his eye locked on to a corner as the wind carried it high into the air and stationed himself right underneath it before, with exquisite technique, he fired home a swift and sweet volley from 20 yards.

6. Mathilde Tollagsen (Hundvag Idrettslag)

After taking possession just inside the opposition half, Tollagsen embarked on a slaloming dribble that took the Norwegian past the same two defenders twice before bursting into the area past a third and prodding an impudent close-range finish past the bamboozled goalkeeper.

7. Conner Collins (Wessex Wanderers)

Combining a forceful sliding tackle with a deft 35-yard lob is no mean feat, and yet that is precisely how Wessex midfield maestro Collins found the back of the net in the Bristol Suburban Premier League.

8. Zac Allen (David Green FC)

Bringing a long throw under his spell with his chest, Allen juggled the ball several times as he headed into the penalty area before unleashing a precision piledriver of a volley into the far top corner.

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