From reading world leaders to keyboard warriors, we encounter plenty of conversations every day. One way to sharpen our thinking skills is to hone our ability to filter facts and opinions.

Let’s use a recent topic for discussion—the Ben Davis episode, and analyse newspaper articles retrieved from, one of the news databases that NTU Library subscribes to.

13 July | Football: Singaporean Ben Davis, 17, signs professional contract with EPL club Fulham
13 July 2018 | The Straits Times

Extract #1

“Singaporean teenager Ben Davis has signed a professional contract with English Premier League side Fulham”

Type of Statement: Provable Fact

Comment: It was mentioned in the article that the club (Fulham) had “announced the signing”. If we wanted to, we could verify this fact, for example, by checking where the club usually post their announcements, such as their website.


Extract #2

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) technical director Michel Sablon said:

“This is good for Singapore, because he will come back here as a better player. The quality of youth development in Europe is much better, that’s why there were 10 European countries remaining (at the start of the knockout rounds of) the World Cup,” said Sablon.

“The quality of coaches’ education is high in Europe, and while France, Spain and Belgium are better known for their strict standards of youth development, there are many competent people at Fulham, and they are very meticulous with their development,” added Sablon, who played a key role in the revamp of the Belgian system that was responsible for the development of the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne who have shone at the World Cup before the team being knocked out at the semi-final stage by France.

“This will also inspire young footballers, who will start to believe that they can also go overseas to develop their own game.”

Type of Statement: Expert Opinion

Comment: Michel Sablon’s credentials go beyond being FAS’ technical director. His comments carry additional weight because of his prior experience with revamping the Belgian system of developing successful players.

14 JULY | MINDEF rejects Ben Davis' application for NS deferment to join Premier League club Fulham

14 July 2018 | Channel NewsAsia

Extract #1

Singaporean footballer Benjamin Davis’ application to defer his national service (NS) enlistment was rejected by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).

MINDEF said: “Very few applications have been approved over the years and based on criteria which are made known to the public. In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore. In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria”

Type of Statement: Probable Fact

Comment: We can accept what MINDEF says as probable facts because we do not have access to information that can corroborate the facts, and also because there is no obvious reason that MINDEF as a public institution will lie about this.


Extract #2

Harvey Davis:

“As the father of Ben, I really hope that common sense can prevail so that Ben can be given the opportunity to not just pursue his dream of playing in the EPL, but also the dream of every young Singaporean footballer and to make Singapore proud by being the first Singaporean to play in the EPL”.

Type of Statement: Personal Opinion

Comment: Harvey is speaking based on his beliefs and values as a father and also a Singaporean. He wants the best for his son and wants him to achieve the best. Additionally, he hopes to show that Singaporeans can aim high and achieve their dreams.


Extract #3

Harvey Davis:

“We have been completely transparent with the authorities who were immediately informed of his scholarship contract back in 2016 and his professional contract back in May this year.

“We fully understand the importance of serving your country and my older son has already served and so will Ben as will my younger boy.”

Type of Statement: Probable Lie

Comment: On the surface, the statements by Harvey Davis look to be true. However, like probable facts, we do not have access to information that can confirm these statements. In addition, Harvey Davis may have reason to lie or to present himself positively.

14 JULY | In full: Mindef, in 2nd statement, says Ben Davis has 'no intention' of fulfilling NS duties

14 July 2018 | TODAY

MINDEF statements:

“Mr Davis’ application does not meet the deferment criteria and was therefore turned down. When asked during the deferment application process when Mr Davis intended to return and serve NS, Mr Davis’ father would not commit to a date and expressed that he would put Mr Davis’ professional career first.”

“Mr Davis went on to sign the contract despite the rejection for deferment and his father has publicly stated that he would encourage Mr Davis to renounce his Singapore citizenship in order to pursue his career.”

“Mr Davis’ actions are meant to further his own professional career, not national interest. As his father openly admitted, he is looking out for his son’s future, not Singapore’s. They have no intention of returning to fulfil their son’s NS duties, especially if Mr Davis is given a full professional contract after the two years of his senior contract.”

Type of Statement: Probable Fact

Comment: MINDEF has provided more facts on what transpired. Once again, no one can easily get evidence of what happened, but we can trust MINDEF as a public institution to present the facts accurately.


This episode had raised many questions and comments about NS deferment, as well as the role of sports and sports development in Singapore.

6 August| In Parliamentary speech, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen indicates that Mindef is not budging on Ben Davis case

6 August 2018 | Coconuts Singapore

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen cited in Parliament three reasons why Ben Davis’ application was rejected:

“Mr. Ben Davis is playing for Fulham Football Club as an English national, not a Singaporean citizen.”

“The father’s responses make clear on his intent for his son to pursue a professional football career to the fullest. If Mr. Ben Davis will not give up his senior contract which provides an allowance of a few hundred pounds a week to serve his national service, it is even more unlikely that he will return to serve national service if he subsequently gets offered a contract worth many times more.”

“The application by Mr. Harvey Davis for his son’s deferment is to further his son’s professional career first and to the longest extent possible. He has been quite open about this, and you would have read what he said. Singapore and her interests, including his son’s NS obligations, are secondary considerations, if at all.”

Type of Statement: A mix of provable fact and verifiable opinion

Comment: MINDEF surfaced the fact that Ben Davis was playing with Fulham not as a Singaporean. MINDEF has formed their opinion that Ben Davis is unlikely to return to serve NS if he subsequently gets a contract offer. This opinion can be validated in the future should the scenario comes true.


Based on the facts and opinions laid out above, we see that we can classify facts (provable fact, probable fact, probable lie) to help us in our thinking and decision-making. We also see that different types of opinion (expert, personal or verifiable) can stimulate thinking towards issues or offer new perspectives.

Both facts and opinion are important in helping us consider our position on any matter. When we can distinguish between the types of fact and opinion, we can better understand the connection (or disconnection) between them. Our thinking becomes more incisive.

In addition, we often have our own firm stand on various issues. Even so, we must aspire to remain open to take in new facts or revised opinions, and be prepared to change our stand accordingly—which is what learning is all about.


Student Assistant Suwindrie Bte Sutiyono contributed to this post.

The typology of fact and opinion was derived from a chapter from The News Manual. | Feature photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash