At 33-years-old and seemingly taking on a reserve role in a struggling second-division side, it might seem that SC Paderborn’s Marcel Ndjeng has the most-relevant era of his professional football career behind him.
Today, however, Ndjeng finds his name on a shortlist alongside those of Carli Lloyd, Carlos Tevez, and even Leonel Messi as a candidate for the 2015 FIFA Puskas award, becoming only the second player to be nominated for the the honor while playing for a Germany-based club. Brazil’s Grafite finished third in voting on the inaugural award for his goal against FC Bayern München in April 2009.
The Puskas Award was established by FIFA in 2009. Named for Hungarian and Real Madrid footballing giant Ferenc Puskas, the honor is intended to recognize “the best goal scored between the dates of 27 September 2014 and 23 September 2015 (inclusively), without distinction of championship, gender or nationality.”
Though “best” is a very subjective term, the intent is for the winner to be thought of as the aesthetically most-pleasing goal of the nomination period, though with some regard for “fair play” from the goal-scorer.
The top ten goals will be whittled down to a final three nominees via a public vote which runs until November 30. A second vote will be held from the time the three finalists are announced until January 11, with the winning goal being the one having compiled the most votes between both voting periods. Each member of the voting public is allowed one vote per round.
A product of the 1. FC Köln youth system, Ndjeng is the only nominee currently playing in Germany. He’s also the only German in the list, though FIFA’s voting site has the Bonn-born midfielder listed with the flag of Cameroon, the nation for which he has played internationally.
Before moving to Paderborn from Hertha BSC last summer, Ndjeng had compiled 73 Bundesliga appearances since his top-flight debut in 2006 with Arminia Bielefeld. The Cameroonian-German also had brief stints with Borussia Mönchengladbach, Hamburger SV, and FC Augsburg before landing in Berlin for his most-successful Bundesliga run, making 33 appearances.
Of the ten nominated goals, Ndjeng’s is the only one that came from a match that was strictly a friendly, having been scored in a 4-1 win over English side Bolton Wanderers last summer in Austria. Philippe Mexes’ volley off a corner kick came against Inter Milan in AC Milan’s victory during the 2015 International Champions Cup with is technically a collection of friendly matches arranged into a competitive tournament atmosphere.
Ndjeng’s strike is one of a handful of long-distance strikes to make the final ten, with the US Women’s National Team’s Carli Lloyd and AS Roma’s Allesandro Florenzi slightly outdistancing Ndjeng’s center-circle hammer.
Past winners of the award include such internationally famous players as Christiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Neymar, and James Rodriguez. The lists of finalists, however, also include names like the aforementioned Messi, Neymar, and Ibrahimovic, as well as Diego Costa, Robin van Persie, and Wayne Rooney.