Inject debating into football to help strengthen decision-making process

One of the most important debating events Malaysia ever hosted is the World Universities Peace Invitational Debate (WUPID).

It’s not simply because this event was the debating family’s very own version of Wimbledon or Woodstock of intellectual discourse, it was also an event that quickly earned Malaysia its reputation as a debating nation.

Former Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman and former Lazada Group chief marketing officer and executive vice-president Andrew Gnananantham were among the leaders and decision-makers who debated competitively in WUPID.

Even though competitive debating has always featured promising students with the strong likelihood of them becoming leaders and policy-makers, debating has never really enjoyed the same standing and esteem as other international events or sports.

Despite the many Ivy League universities (eg. Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, etc) and thousands of bright debaters involved, organisers continuously face the challenge of not always being able to provide the kind of facilities, accommodation and logistics that elite events like the Olympic Games or World Economic Forum have.

But in 2007, the founders of WUPID were given enough time, resources and finances to host an Olympic-like university debate championship.

The allocated prize money was US$10,000. The grand final was held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. The invited teams were put up at a five-star hotel in the heart of the city. And the participating teams were overwhelmed with the quality of service and hospitality.

Even till today, the inaugural WUPID in 2007 and the second edition in 2008 are remembered as the tournaments that gave competitive debating the prestige and treatment it deserved.

Regrettably, WUPID’s glamour was short-lived.

After the third event in 2009, the tournament was “sold” to a foundation. The promise of fortune and assurance that the legacy of the tournament would be safeguarded were shattered.

Five years down the road, the founders walked away with a sorry sum of RM5,000 and a debate event with a ruined equity valuation.

Unperturbed by the blow, one of the founders remained steadfast. He felt an obliging need to keep the culture alive as there is much that debating can teach us.

He founded ‘Bahas Bola’, a platform where debating is regarded as a preferred platform for public engagement, to further enhance policies, or extend new directives related to local football.

Debates encourage us to look at matters from different perspectives and stop us from being overtly apprehensive at stepping on someone else’s toes.

Debates encourage us to be more constructive in our arguments. Debating is never a platform to shame others. It is a medium for people to reach an agreement.

Having been involved in promoting debating for more than two decades and understanding the immense influence it has in nurturing positive changes, I wish our football administrators place importance on embracing this activity and making it a central part of their policy-making process.

Debating is capable of helping our football policy-makers develop a more assured personality and appreciate the importance of broadmindedness, embrace civic discourse as a preferred choice to conflict resolution and strive for collective justice and virtue.

We need to give debating a chance to play a bigger and integral role in our decision-making processes.

Like everything else, football desperately needs a platform where policies and ideas can be tested – an inclusive platform where civil engagements take place, and where members of the community participate in the design of the policies that affect them.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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