This morning’s drive along the congested MR2 was the first that I actually enjoyed the traffic jam. When usually it would take 20 – 30 minutes to navigate the jam to reach office, I purposely joined the more congested lane so that for once I could sit quietly in the car and go through the mental image of the smile each one of them had yesterday.
So the job is done, the cycle is finally completed and my exit is staring at me in a near distant. There was a time that I have given up any hope of ever seeing koleq boys on stage winning a national debating championship – but Allah in His Infinite Wisdom and Justice knew better.
The BM A (first team made up of Aslam, Aleng and Fendy) won the championship with style, with a 9-0 decision from the jury (the first time in the championship’s history, yet that’s only one of the many records made in this championship by koleq’s team). That was after a “kemarau” (to quote Fendy) of 3 years going to the final but losing before the finishing line (with some controversies along the way).
The full results and significance are as follows:
1) BM defeated SSP with 9-0 decision, first time a unanimous decision was made
2) Fendy won the Best Speaker Overall as well as Best Speaker Final, the first time it happened
3) Koleq maintained Best Speaker Overall title (2006 it was Aslam, this year Aslam was ranked 4th out of around 300 speakers) for 2 years in a row, the first time it occurred. Koleq has maintained Best Speaker Overall title in 2004 (Zaim), 2006 (Aslam) and 2007 (Fendy).
4) Koleq had been to the final 4 times in a row (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) – a record not yet beaten by any other schools
5) The first time in the championship history that a team won unanimous decision throughout the knock-out rounds. Koleq won unanimous decision from double octo final, octo final, quarter final, semi final and final at 7-0, 7-0, 9-0, 9-0 and 9-0 respectively
6) The 2nd team BM (Nash, Aqwa and Yuhaikal) was ranked 7th out of 80+ teams and went straight to the octo final reserved for top 8 teams only (without battling it out with the rest to get the other 8 places) – the first time in our participation’s history that the junior team went straight to the octo final
7) English team was ranked first out of 80+ teams; the second year in a row that we clinched the top spot. We were the last man standing, the only team that won all debates after the first 7 rounds. Unfortunately they lost to SAS which they defeated in the early rounds at semi final – tough luck. The other semi finalists (RMC, STAR and SAS) were all beaten by them by the time the preliminary rounds ended.
8) All the English speakers were in the top 10 best speakers overall – the only team to have achieved that in the last tournament.
9) The English team is a new team and they debated for the first time as a team last month. This is their only second tournament so that achievement was beyond anyone’s wildest dream.
So what should I write here now that the job is done?
THE BEST SMILE
The best smile, the most meaningful in so many years and the one that I cannot get rid of my mind until now is Fendy’s smile from afar at me; after being announced as the winner (before that he picked up Best Speaker Overall and Best Speaker Final).
For 2 consecutive years after the result was announced, he would come back to us with tears in his eyes. This is a kid who has been with us since his first few months in koleq, who had followed us in Kangar for 2004 PPM and who had provided much joy for his wit, cuteness and sharpness – a near perfect package.
For 2 consecutive years I had to pat his head, hugged him and told him that it was OK, that you were the real winner in our hearts.
This year, in the midst of photographers, reporters and swamped by congratulatory wishes, he managed to give a short glance and smile from afar. Later on after the press conference etc. he managed to come back and see me for a moment before being called again by other people – in that short while, he smiled at me, looked me into the eyes and said “tak bolot sangat kan?”
It was the best smile I’ve seen in years.
As I was watching them from afar, Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (Class of 78, Head Boy and PPM Champion 1980) who was standing on my left at one point; told me – “It’s their time, let them enjoy it. We had ours”.
He had his in 1980. I had mine in 1992 and 1993. In every generation, after years of hard work we would finally earn our place – always we have to put twice the effort and double the quality than others to win – that the smile we give that manifests our satisfaction is so priceless. If I have a way of printing my mental image, I would and would have framed Fendy’s smile that day. I would hang it in my living room for many years to come.
THE BEST EYE CONTACT
Most of us the adults (by adults I mean the late 20s and above) that day had tears in our eyes when it was announced. Cikgu Umi, Cikgu Safaliza and Cikgu Azfa were sitting one row in front of me, Canoe and Allen were one row behind.
When it was announced I was overwhelmed and for once I am sure it was obvious to everyone. Not because it’s the best thing in this world to win, but the journey we all take – everyone who was with me on that day – to arrive there. To remember that we had to go through 3 defeats in the final to be finally crowned as the undisputable winner; is very emotional.
Cikgu Umi turned back, looked at me and smiled and asked me “Happy sekarang?”. She certainly had tears in her eyes but she was a lot better at controlling her emotions even when I was in school i.e. in her younger days, let alone now that she is a much more mellowed person.
I don’t know what went through Allen and Canoe’s mind – but we did hug each other, something I had never done before despite knowing them practically all my adult life. I guess they would have known how much it means to me to win – so that I stopped asking the question whether the kids were punished for my mistakes and arrogance/sins, so that there would not be a long period of soul searching and contemplation every time the kids were robbed of a championship right in front of our eyes.
It’s a closure to one episode of our respective short lives. In our little ways, we were a part of this journey that will define the kids’ characters in the future and form one of the best parts of their lives.
I would have traded anything in this world to be a part of that story that they will keep with them forever – because I remember how it felt back then, with my own story.
That was why when our eyes locked to one another’s the other day – it was the best eye contact in many years; because we all knew what this little victory means to the lives of these kids and to our own for many years to come.
THE BEST JUSTICE
They say justice delayed is justice denied. For so many years, perhaps the biggest motivation that keeps the team going is the yearning to get our justice – because there were many time that we have met moot results in the past.
It is a curse of being an MCKK debater, that you are expected to be a lot better than the rest before you are allowed to win – simply because you are an MCKK debater and people expect you to be good. Most of the time, you are up against yourself and your standard – not against the opponents. Even at UIA, I felt that all the opponents have to do to defeat us is to create a doubt that this MCKK team is not in its top form; because most people know how MCKK team would be when they are on top form.
Is it fair for our boys? Strictly speaking it is not because they are just boys just like any others; but on the other hand this expectation moulded them to come to a near perfect standard compared to other schools before they earned the trophy.
This just means that if and when we win a trophy, we have an undisputable win though the waiting can be sad and agonising.
But it was worth every drop of tears, every second of agony, every year of being defeated at the final – to see the standing ovation and the joy the whole hall felt for the boys when finally they were announced as the winners; the feeling of relief felt throughout the halls that finally they were given their justice.
3 years is long, but I have never witnessed MCKK is this popular in any tournament. When we first came here in 2004 (my first UIA with the boys), you could feel the resentment in the air against our boys – from the UIA people all the way to the other competitors. And that’s natural – MCKK boys should expect nothing less than that each time we go to any tournament.
But the change this year is touching. I could feel the change in the air, the smile on the judges face each time these boys debated.
I can’t explain what happened, but my guess is that we are normal human beings and nice little kids who are so good on the stage grow on us – especially when they display decency and gentleman manner year in year out despite the feeling of being “short-changed”.
Just like they have grown so much on us, they do too on most other people who went to UIA. I hope the same thing happens at PPM this year.
Justice delayed could be justice denied, but it’s definitely the best justice when it’s finally given to us.
THE MOST OVERWHELMING BURDEN
Aslam carried a heavy burden as the captain – both because of the expectation set for the team and the expectation he set for himself.
Along the way I realised he was on the verge of breaking down although he kept a serious look all the time – but he snapped easily, he would push his team to go on even when it was obvious that mentally and physically they could not take it anymore.
What went through the mind of a kid who debated for koleq since Form 2, who had had so many other awards but not a single debating championship, despite going to finals a few times? How did he cope with the fear that he would lose it again in his final year in koleq and has to bring back the bad news to koleq, yet again?
In terms of keras kepala and the single-mindedness to be anti-mainstream; Aslam was the nearest to me compared to all others. He speaks his mind, never afraid of any consequences that may come and sometimes amuses me for his “berani kerana benar” attitude.
I remember in 2004 at the canteen after a meeting, he naively asked me “Kenapa Anwar kena pecat?” when he was in Form 2. That put me on a spot as I didn’t want to influence them with my own thoughts and I wanted them to discover life for themselves – but that was Aslam, and it was only a beginning of so many similar questions throughout the years!
Aslam was quiet throughout the tournament, sometimes he was more quiet than Aleng (Note: Aleng is considered wali Allah in the team, one who does not commit sin or anything makruh!). He was not at all his usual character as we went along towards the final, most probably because the fear of losing really haunted him.
Even after they were announced and crowned as the winner, he was not his usual self yet. He smiled yet something was amiss. I initially kept telling him to forget everything and just enjoy the moment as it only happens once.
Eventually I realised, from his SMS after that, that the burden has been so overwhelming it took a while for everything to sink in even after they have won.
He sent me 2 SMS:
“Salam. Dh smpai. Bru je smyg isyak & qada mghrib. Aa, tq bnyk2 4ur deeds. Winning the chmpionship ws impossible without the old bys. Im still recalling bout our memories (04 – 07) & lgu yg aleng suka tu seems to keep playing in my mind s the bckground music, haha. Dnt knw y. At lst!Tq”
2.25 am 18 April 2007, Cube 21, West Wing
“Salam. I reread ur letters. Feel bttr now. Just burst in tears – feel touchd 2 c how the old bys hv wrkd hrd 4 us. I would say u seemlike our mithali daddies! Haha (discussing points, preparing food, etc). Tq vry much!”
18.42 pm 18 April 2007, Cube 21, West Wing
In the course of the last 4 years, I have sent them many letters, almost around 100 letters to both teams and individually. I too reread some of the letters and it is understandable why a captain of MCKK Debating Team would feel the big relief when we finally win, because the burden and expectation is so great.
THE MOST SELFLESS SACRIFICE
In many stories that mean the world to us, there are many actors without whom the story would not have been complete.
I can still explain why the ex-debaters and teachers have to do this, because we owe it to the boys just as the people before us showered us with their love and care. But I cannot explain why people who have nothing to do with debating or the team would want to sacrifice their time, money, energy and give their love to a bunch of kids unconnected to them?
It would have been impossible to see the competition through without Canoe, Allen and Helman.
Canoe and Allen loyally stayed with the English boys because I had to stay with the BM boys, just to give them the moral support and look after them. In the process all of us took a one week leave and Allen had to travel from his hotel at 3 am to catch a 6 am flight from KK to be with the boys.
We then shuttle them to my place for them to do research at night and discuss issues/topics; while Canoe and Helman quickly went to get the food for the kids (15 of them, not easy to get proper food for 20++ in half an hour in KL to save time since we only have 3-4 hours to discuss as many current issues as possible).
Helman would serve the food for them and get them to clean their dishes. The night before the final, we all had to literally tuck them in to sleep, make sure they sleep well. Helman and I had to wake up at 5 and wake everyone in turns beginning with the first team because we just ran out of time to discuss the topics, so we needed to maximise every minute. While we went through possible issues, Helman would clean my kitchen, prepared toasts, coffee and cereals for the kids. He then did the laundry for the kids.
Helman is 17 year old – last year’s captain. I was amazed at his maturity and sense of responsibility; that he knew exactly how to contribute even that early on.
We even checked how they combed their hair, to make sure they look smart. It is always our great pride that these kids go to the debating rooms looking very smart (and jambu). Sometimes we had to spend time “fixing” one or two debaters’ hair-do, so that the hair looked more trendy.
If you reflect all this, I can take comfort that all of us Insya Allah will be great parents one day! The selfless sacrifice that people like Helman, Allen and Canoe showed throughout reminded me of the price we pay to maintain our standard – and it also reminded the present debaters of the selfless sacrifice they will owe to the future generation of debaters.
THE BEST TEAM
Each generation will want to claim that their generation is the best. In the context of MCKK and debating – I am used to the generations circa 1999-2001 to claim that they were the best batch of debaters koleq has ever produced due to the many achievements they had; the opinion of which they are entitled to.
At the risk of not being entirely objective, I have always thought that Aslam, Aleng and Fendy could well have been the best team of BM debaters we have for so many years (just as Bucks, Ed and Haqqa were for the English in 2006) because of the right combination of everything.
Although my own “radar ke-handsome-an or ke-lawa-an remaja” is completely broken, the amount of followings and fans they have suggests that they are good looking.
The level of maturity and knowledge they have beats some university students; after all they read The Economists and Newsweek!
But most importantly – the showmanship and the wits are something that no other schools can come close for the time being. Even more mind-boggling, the most talented of them all in this department is Aleng – the quiet Head Boy who covers his mouth with his hand when he laughs, who has never said anything bad about anything in this world, whose amount of praying and munajat in one day beats my cumulative hours in one month!
But when he stood up, people wait to see what next joke he would crack – and he very rarely disappoints audience. I think what makes it more funny is because it’s Aleng.
When MOZAC debaters were listing the weaknesses of our education system, he stood up before his speech and dengan selambanya told the hall that he would call Dato’ Seri Hishamuddin to ask his kindness to close the school and stop the agony of its students, as they really hate the school and the education system.
When TKC debaters tried to play our game and tried to be funny by referring to MCKK debaters as “Ultraman” and them as “Sailor Moon” (I was told this is a cartoon character of female super heroes), Aleng taunted them for the next one hour endlessly on that. Even at the last minute before his time was up he appealed to the House to ignore TKC’s argument since being aliens who disguise themselves as Sailor Moon who look like “katak”, they don’t make much sense.
Or when TKC/SSP tried to make fun of Aslam’s smile – Aslam stood up during reply speech and told the House that as much as he realised the ladies could not control their lust for them; they were on a serious business and would only consider any “sessi berkenalan” after the debate – which of course instantaneously turned the girls’ faces red.
There was a time they were up against MRSM Pasir Salak and the first speaker was quite cute (jambu la), but he was mocking Aslam’s smile all the time (not to mention he copied Aslam’s style nearly 100%). Wrong move – because when Fendy stood up, he made sure the mocking should be returned albeit in a very nice way. He kept referring to how much he loved to answer the cute opponent’s “Point of Information” (opponent is allowed to ask question in the middle of a debate in a parliamentary debate; but the opponent was quiet all along), how the first speaker would have looked a lot cuter if he continued to smile despite losing the argument etc.
Basically, if you throw the gauntlet to these kids, they will pick it up and thrashed you in the cutest, funniest and most unique way.
I had never enjoyed watching school debates as much as I enjoyed watching them.
THE UNFULFILLED WISHES
I wished Ben and Fazurin would have been there, for they have loved and groomed the boys as much as I have. It would have meant so much for them as much it is to me, especially to Ben since he has soft spot for Fendy (his little favourite young debater who never fails to make him laugh).
But Ben did not get back to me, most probably either because he was away or his health deteriorates again.
Fazurin was still in the US and it will be a while before he comes back.
I told myself that maybe when we finally made it to the final of PPM to finish the job – Ben and Fazurin will be there to witness the moment.
I wished Miss Sherry would have been around too, but she had to leave early to attend a meeting. She certainly would have cried because of all the people, she and Cikgu Umi understand the value of this little victory to all of us.
I wished more koleq boys were there to admire these boys on stage. When I won PPM in 1992 and 1993 – more than half of Dewan Muktamar at Pusat Islam was filled with koleq boys, present and past, young and old. Many of them still recall our antics on stage or still laugh at our jokes back then during the debate, when we reminisce. They took pride in our debaters back then because they knew what it felt to admire koleq’s prowess in the debating arena.
Unfortunately for whatever reasons, despite having the best teams in a few generations, not even a handful of boys know how good these boys are because none was there to witness the final.
THE BEST HOPE
By now I only have one more deliverable left outstanding – PPM. I don’t put too much hope as the judges at PPM are more unpredictable (and to a certain extent more anti-MCKK), but I still have to see that one through.
In a way, the clock ticks louder now and my generation, my colleagues in this team of coaches, will move on eventually. It’s going to be sooner rather than later. We have made peace with our conscience that we have done our time.
But I take comfort that when we pass the baton, the next generation of coaches will take the baton firmly, intact in their palm and sprints even faster than us. Izzat will look after the BM teams better than I do, Haqqa will make a much better coach than Fazurin and I ever will with the English – and together they will lead their generations’ coaches team to bring koleq’s future teams to a new height.
Even looking at the junior teams it brings us warmth and comfort.
The junior English debaters, with Rashad, Ikhwan and Fido will take off where their seniors have left and we should see a formidable team from 2009 onwards, if all the plans get executed smoothly.
For the BM team, the combination of Fendy – with Aqwa and Nash (both are cute boys whose band of fans is accumulating so quickly that they spent more time giving out hand phone no’s to girls during the last day of the tournament than saying Hi to me!) will retain some level of superiority in 2008. Aqwa and Nash will continue thereafter and hopefully they would have improved a lot more in terms of maturity by 2009 to give everyone a good run for their money. After all, Aqwa was a 6-time best speaker during the preliminary rounds, a feat not even achieved by the senior debaters ha ha (hence why the tears when they lost at octo final, as the juniors too could have gone all the way to the final).
In them is our best hope that “menang atau kalah, you can expect a tough fight from MCKK and we will keep to our high standard for many years to come”.
And they will not let us down.
“I hereby do solemnly affirm that I shall honour the trust vested in me; that I shall put the interest of the team above my own at all times; that I shall discharge my responsibility faithfully, with honour and dignity; that I will defend the pride and history that is the trademark of MCKK’s debating team for as long as I live; that I shall offer my undying allegiance to the team and the cause it takes and my undiluted faith for the same; that I shall do what is right and just, not what is popular and easy.
So with Allah’s help and blessings and together with my colleagues shall we set out; so that we shall not despair in the face of worldly defeat for as long as we remain true to our principles and standard; that we shall give more than we take so that those who come after us are always better than us; that we shall always remember it is not the destination but the triumphant journeys that matter; that forever we shall rise from any defeat or victory to lead a life of service; for what is life but to serve; so help us Allah.”
- The Oath taken by the Captain of MCKK Debating Teams upon election