Is owning an article of clothing with a team’s insignia a good enough reason to cheer for them?

I recently wrote about how it might be a good idea to transfer one’s soccer allegiance to the hometown Fort Worth Vaqueros, given that they had qualified for their playoffs. Even as Team USA was conspicuously absent in Russia this World Cup, the Vaqueros were traveling to Laredo where their conference’s top seed unfortunately eliminated them.

So with soccer still left to play on the other side of the world, what was one to do? I had actually struggled with choosing a side to support since the tournament began.

My niece had a shirt for the French team, plus she studies French in high school and is a bit of a Francophile. So, naturally, she picked France as her team. It was as good a reason as any. I think it’s ok to root for a team because, all other things being equal, you own something bearing their logo. I got a Leeds United shirt as a present once. I’ve never been to Leeds, but if I happened to be in a pub and second-tier English soccer showed up on the telly, I’d probably pull for them if they were involved.

I did own an England shirt from a trip over there, and I have friends who live in the UK, so the Three Lions would have made a reasonable choice for my allegiance. I’m a Liverpool supporter, so I also tend to favor squads with Reds on them. Seven nations had at least one Liverpool man on the roster, though, so that didn’t help as much. Club loyalties did help me choose whom to root against, however. I wished failure on Uruguay because of the presence of the disgraced (at least in the eyes of a Liverpudlian) Luis Suarez. La Celeste exited in the quarters, defeated 2-0 by France. I was also pleased to see Spain dismissed by the low-ranked hosts in the round of 16. It was nothing against Spaniards in general, but I did not want to see Sergio Ramos come out on top after his questionable aggression knocked Mo Saleh out of the Champions League final.

Unfortunately, if one wanted to select sides to cheer against, the tournament gave you lots of options. Soccer still has its demons. In fact, there were enough controversies associated with this World Cup to justify a dedicated Wikipedia page, and even it doesn’t quite get all of them.

It started even before the tournament was played. Potential FIFA corruption hangs over any big international soccer event. The governing body likely avoided hints of impropriety in awarding the 2026 World Cup to a joint North American bid. It was an easily justifiable decision, but it served to underscore the controversy associated with the recent choices of Russia and Qatar as hosts.

Swiss players of Albanian descent provoked Serbian supporters with hand gestures, and the Serbian federation got fined for their own fans’ behavior as well. I reconsidered my allegiance to Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren of Croatia after reading about a questionable choice of celebratory songs on his part.

One of the most popular memes to come out of the tournament involved one of the world’s best players. But it had nothing to do with spectacular goal-scoring or inspired defending. It had to do with another of the sport’s black eyes: flopping. The internet mocked Brazilian star Neymar incessantly for reacting demonstratively to on-pitch transgressions against him. Embellishing one’s injury has a long and inglorious tradition in soccer, and the game could have done without high-profile reinforcement. It definitely didn’t make me want Brazil to advance.

For sure there were many things that reminded me what I love about association football. There were beautiful goals – a Cristiano Ronaldo free kick especially sticks out in my mind. There was genuine emotion from players and fans and some crucial games that were tightly contested right to the end. We even had upsets. But there was a lot of misconduct, too.

This competition was (hopefully) unique in that my home team, the USA, didn’t qualify. As I was choosing whom to support, it was often not easy. When so many teams and players disqualify themselves from one’s allegiance, a person is really left with a Seinfeldian choice: just root for the clothes.

Several years ago (way back in 2013) Parliament passed the Protection of State Information Bill (widely known as the Secrecy Bill). For some bizarre reason, President Jacob Zuma did not ever sign the Bill into law. But not assenting to and signing a Bill into law constitutes an egregious power grab – because the president does not have a right to veto legislation that has been passed by Parliament.

We all know that former President Jacob Zuma was not a president with a well-developed respect for his solemn obligation to uphold and defend the Constitution. In many respects Zuma was a constitutional delinquent while in office.

The most infamous example of this lack of respect for his constitutional obligations was his failure to stop the use of state funds to renovate his private home, thus allowing himself to be unlawfully enriched as a result. Consequently, the state paid for renovations at his private home that had nothing to do with his security. (The state even paid for the construction of a swimming pool, which – in mini-Trump style – some of his defenders laughably tried to convince the public was a “fire pool”.)

Because of this constitutional delinquency the Constitutional Court held in the judgment of Economic Freedom Fighters v Speaker of the National Assembly and Others; Democratic Alliance v Speaker of the National Assembly and Others that:

The President’s failure to comply with the remedial action taken against him by the Public Protector is inconsistent with his obligations to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic; to comply with the remedial action taken by the Public Protector; and the duty to assist and protect the office of the Public Protector to ensure its independence, impartiality, dignity and effectiveness.”

But a far odder example of former President Zuma’s constitutional delinquency has gone largely unnoticed. This is his failure to assent to and sign the Protection of State Information Bill into law.

Although the version of the Bill eventually passed by Parliament was not as draconian as the version first tabled, I continue to have grave doubts about the constitutionality of parts of the Bill. If brought into effect it might well insulate the intelligence service from even the limited scrutiny it is currently subjected to and may also provide powerful mechanisms to allow the state top hide corruption and maladministration. As I summed it up in May 2013: “New Improved Secrecy Bill: Still Bad, Still Unconstitutional”.

This means I have mixed feelings about reminding anyone that the secrecy bill was never signed and that this constitutes a fundamental constitutional dereliction of duty on the part of both the former and the current presidents. But because this power grab by the president could occur again in another setting, it is important to remind everyone of the principle involved, which is that the president may not ignore his or her constitutional obligations.

A South African president does not have the power to veto a Bill passed by Parliament and cannot in effect veto such a Bill by indefinitely failing to assent to and sign it. In terms of section 79 of the Constitution, the president is allowed, first, to refer a Bill (duly passed by Parliament) back to the National Assembly (NA) to reconsider any sections of the Bill if the president has reservations about the constitutionality of such sections. This President Zuma in fact did with the Secrecy Bill, after which Parliament tinkered with the Bill and passed it again. That was towards the end of 2013, almost five years ago.

Second, the president can also refer the sections he or she believes to be unconstitutional to the Constitutional Court for a decision if he or she is not satisfied with the response of the National Assembly. In this regard section 79(4) (read with section 237) of the Constitution explains what must happen next. Section 79(4) states that:

If, after reconsideration, a Bill fully accommodates the President’s reservations, the President must assent to and sign the Bill; if not, the President must either (a) assent to and sign the Bill; or (b) refer it to the Constitutional Court for a decision on its constitutionality.”

As the wording makes clear, the president has no choice in the matter. If he or she does not refer the Bill to the Constitutional Court, the president must assent to and sign the Bill. In the USA, with its more robust system of checks and balances, the president has a right to veto a Bill whose content he or she fundamentally disapproves of. Such a veto kills off the Bill unless the veto is overridden by the Senate but only if the Senate passes the same Bill with a two thirds majority.

South African presidents do not have this power. They cannot veto a Bill because they do not like its content. They can only refer those parts of the Bill first to the National Assembly and then to the Constitutional Court, but only if they truly have reservations about the constitutionality of these sections.

As section 79(5) makes clear, if the Constitutional Court finds that the sections referred to it are constitutional, the president must assent to and sign the Bill. In Ex Parte The President of the Republic of South Africa, In Re: Constitutionality of the Liquor Bill, the Constitutional Court held that:

It is moreover clear that the President is empowered to refer a matter to this Court in terms of section 79 only if his reservations concerning the constitutionality of the Bill are not fully accommodated by Parliament. If the President has no reservations concerning the constitutionality of the Bill, or if his reservations have been fully accommodated by Parliament, the referral would be incompetent. In the circumstances, the presidential power is limited under section 79(4)(b) to the power to refer a Bill to the Constitutional Court ‘for a decision on its constitutionality’ with respect to his reservations…. Section 79(5) obliges the President to sign the Bill only if this Court decides that the Bill ‘is constitutional’. If it withholds such a finding — whether because the legislation is unconstitutional as whole, or only in part — the President may not sign the Bill.”

Section 237 of the Constitution makes clear that the president cannot delay assenting to and signing a Bill for almost five years. The section reads as follows: “All constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay.”

The president has a constitutional obligation either to refer a Bill already referred to the NA to the Constitutional Court, or to assent to and sign it. He or she has a duty to do so diligently and without delay. One could argue that the president has many tasks to fulfil and that he or she should be given a month or two to assent to and sign Bills passed by Parliament. But no one would argue that not assenting to and signing a Bill almost five years after it was passed comply with the duty to act diligently and without delay.

By not assenting to and signing the Secrecy Bill then President Zuma (and now President Ramaphosa) have arrogated to themselves powers they do not have. By doing so they are encroaching on the separation of powers as they are exercising a power (to decide on whether a Bill should be passed or not) they do not have, a power the Constitution bestows on Parliament.

This means that President Cyril Ramaphosa has now inherited this constitutionally delinquent action from his predecessor. This does not absolve him from acting. But neither does it mean that he is required to sign the Secrecy Bill. He is entitled in terms of section 79(4) of the Constitution to refer the various sections of the Bill that may be unconstitutional to the Constitutional Court for a final decision.

This referral to the Constitutional Court needed to have happened speedily and without delay (but it has not). For President Ramaphosa to become constitutionally compliant he either has to assent to and sign the Protection of State Information Bill (not ideal), or he needs to refer the sections which might be unconstitutional to the Constitutional Court for a final decision (obviously the better options).

What he is not permitted to do is to delay the matter any longer. DM


On an idiosyncratic day which didn’t know whether it was coming or going, one which firstly doused the early wave of players with cool rain only for the later starters to benefit from a softened links and calmer conditions, the upshot in this 147th British Open was that Rory McIlroy – on the wrong side of the Jekyll and Hyde drawsheet – stubbornly stood his ground to stay very much in contention.

The casualty list, indeed, contained some misfiring big guns. Dustin Johnson, the world number one, and Justin Thomas, the man right behind him, failed to survive the midway cut and it would have been a 1-2-3 only for Justin Rose, third in the rankings, to make it by the skin of his teeth after he showed great fortitude to close out with a birdie on the 18th green to secure his place for the final two rounds. Jon Rahm also departed.

And so too Shane Lowry, who – providing shockwaves of a different kind – broke up, whether permanently or not, with his long-time caddie Dermot Byrne in mid-championship. Lowry had his coach Neil Manchip filling in as bagman for a second round that ultimately got away from him with late bogeys on the 16th and 17th.

As quietness gathered in the evening, the stillness broken only by the sound of the seagulls who remained on till the final putt of a long day’s play finished, the names atop the giant yellow leaderboard on the grandstand by the final green showed that Zach Johnson, a two-time Major champion, and his housemate Kevin Kisner, chasing a breakthrough Major, led the way on 136, six under par, a stroke clear of chasing trio Tommy Fleetwood, Xander Schauffle and Pat Perez.

For sure, it’s a packed leaderboard; but one that had a potpourri scent, a mixture of those who have lifted Major titles before and those getting the whiff of such glory for a first time.

And within touching distance, just two shots adrift of the co-leaders, lay McIlroy. The 29-year-old Northern Irishman was required to adjust his intended gameplan when his morning start featured conditions of cool air and a persistent rain – sometimes drizzly, sometimes heavier – meant his strategy to overpower the course was replaced by a more conservative plan.

As it was, McIlroy penned his signature to a second successive 69 – for 138 – to sit readily positioned to attack. “I feel like there are low rounds in me,” he confessed, adding: “I felt very comfortable out there. I played well within myself.”

One thing is for sure, McIlroy didn’t bemoan his lot for getting on the wrong side of the draw. There was no slumping of shoulders, no throwing toys out of the pram. “I just kept level-headed when I needed to, didn’t let the conditions get to me. I wasn’t say to myself, ‘geez, I wish I was on the other side of the draw’. I just got on with it.”

With the last of his four Majors claimed at the 2014 US PGA Championship, McIlroy – himself – has felt he went into more recent Majors “worrying too much about the result, not focusing as much on the process.”

It has been a learning curve in its own way. His failure to challenge in the final round at Augusta, for instance, was a case in point. “Even if I hadn’t won that tournament, but went down [fighting] and aggressive and committing to every shot, I would have walked away a lot happier.”

So it is that all these months on his mindset has changed. “I’ve been a little too careful and tentative . . . I’m going to go down swinging and I’m going to go down giving it my best. I was focusing on the result too much, but the result is just the byproduct of all the little things you do to lead up to that. I’ve sometimes forgotten that and just needed to get back in that mindset. I’m in a great position going into the third day.”

And the plan of attack, with better weather conditions forecast, is for the driver to become his club of choice off the tee as he reverts to the aggressive gameplan for the weekend in his bid to hunt down those ahead of him.

“I think he knows what he is doing,” agreed Pádraig Harrington, who walked away with the Claret Jug when the championship was last staged here in 2007. On this occasion, the Dubliner – along with Lowry and Darren Clarke – were among the casualties.

McIlroy and Paul Dunne were the only two Irish players to make it to the weekend, with Dunne adding a 73 for a 36-holes total of 144, one shot inside the cut mark. Dunne, indeed, showed his own resolve with three closing pars over the tough stretch from the 16th in to ensure his presence for the weekend.

Fleetwood’s 65 was the best round of the day, again demonstrating his upwardly mobile trending towards a Major having featured in the final pairing in the last round of last month’s US Open. His conqueror on that occasion, Brooks Koepka, showed his combative instincts with a second round 68 that moved him up 32 places to a share of 18th and just five adrift.

Jordan Spieth’s survival instincts also kicked in, as the defending champion produced a 67 for 139 to ensure the banter in the rental house – which also accommodates the leaders Johnson and Kisner as well as Rickie Fowler – will be of which of them, if any, can claim the title this time around.

“I look at Augusta and the Open Championship as probably my two best opportunities in a year, the best tournaments for me. I love the imagination needed over here, said Spieth . “I know my swing’s not exactly where I want it to be, nowhere near where it was at Birkdale [last year], but the short game’s on point and the swing’s working the right direction to get that confidence back.

Kisner and Johnson just might start looking over their shoulders sooner rather than later.

(Par 71, British and Irish unless stated, (a) denotes amateur)

136 Zach Johnson (USA) 69 67, Kevin Kisner (USA) 66 70

137 Pat Perez (USA) 69 68, Xander Schauffele (USA) 71 66, Tommy Fleetwood 72 65

138 Tony Finau (USA) 67 71, Rory McIlroy 69 69, Zander Lombard (Rsa) 67 71, Matt Kuchar (USA) 70 68, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 67 71

139 Rickie Fowler (USA) 70 69, Kevin Chappell (USA) 70 69, Jordan Spieth (USA) 72 67

140 Luke List (USA) 70 70, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 70 70, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 68 72, Danny Willett 69 71

141 Charley Hoffman (USA) 71 70, Kyle Stanley (USA) 72 69, Adam Scott (Aus) 71 70, Alex Noren (Swe) 70 71, Sung Kang (Kor) 69 72, Patrick Cantlay (USA) 70 71, Matthew Southgate 69 72, Webb Simpson (USA) 70 71, Brooks Koepka (USA) 72 69, Eddie Pepperell 71 70, Ryan Moore (USA) 68 73

142 Jason Day (Aus) 71 71, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 70 72, Tiger Woods (USA) 71 71, Austin Cook (USA) 72 70, Shaun Norris (Rsa) 74 68, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 72 70, Stewart Cink (USA) 72 70, Phil Mickelson (USA) 73 69, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 73 69, Michael Kim (USA) 73 69, Sean Crocker (USA) 71 71

143 Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) 72 71, Marcus Kinhult (Swe) 74 69, Beau Hossler (USA) 73 70, Gary Woodland (USA) 71 72, Adam Hadwin (Can) 73 70, Cameron Davis (Aus) 71 72, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 71 72, Kevin Na (USA) 70 73, Haotong Li (Chn) 71 72, Julian Suri (USA) 74 69, Yuta Ikeda (Jpn) 70 73, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 70 73

144 Bernhard Langer (Ger) 73 71, Chris Wood 70 74, Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 73 71, Brendan Steele (USA) 68 76, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) 73 71, Brett Rumford (Aus) 74 70, Cameron Smith (Aus) 73 71, Paul Dunne 71 73, Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 72, Paul Casey 73 71, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 74 70, Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn) 77 67, Lee Westwood 72 72

145 Ross Fisher 75 70, Jason Dufner (USA) 75 70, Rhys Enoch 74 71, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 74 71, Sam Locke (a) 72 73, Keegan Bradley (USA) 74 71, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 74 71, Tom Lewis 75 70, Justin Rose 72 73, Tyrrell Hatton 74 71, Bryson DeChambeau (USA) 75 70, Gavin Green (Mal) 72 73, Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn) 71 74, Patrick Reed (USA) 75 70, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 75

The following players missed the half-way cut:

146 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 75 71, Matt Wallace 74 72, Branden Grace (Rsa) 74 72, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 71 75, Tom Lehman (USA) 75 71, George Coetzee (Rsa) 75 71, Chez Reavie (USA) 69 77, Daniel Berger (USA) 73 73, Peter Uihlein (USA) 74 72, Justin Thomas (USA) 69 77, Sergio Garcia (Esp) 75 71, Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry) 72 74, Russell Knox 73 73

147 Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 74 73, Oliver Wilson 75 72, Jorge Campillo (Esp) 72 75, Chesson Hadley (USA) 73 74, Brian Harman (USA) 71 76, Kelly Kraft (USA) 74 73, Andy Sullivan 71 76, Jon Rahm (Esp) 69 78, Shane Lowry 74 73, Jordan Smith 74 73, Matthew Fitzpatrick 72 75

148 Dustin Johnson (USA) 76 72, Nicolai Hojgaard (a) (Den) 72 76, Bubba Watson (USA) 75 73, Bronson Burgoon (USA) 74 74, Alexander Levy (Fra) 73 75

149 Marcus Armitage 80 69, Sang Hyun Park (Kor) 76 73, Scott Jamieson 75 74, Charles Howell III (USA) 75 74, Abraham Ancer (Mex) 71 78, Ryuko Tokimatsu (Jpn) 72 77, Mark Calcavecchia (USA) 73 76, Russell Henley (USA) 69 80, Ernie Els (Rsa) 73 76

150 Jason Kokrak (USA) 72 78, Thomas Curtis 82 68, Alexander Bjork (Swe) 72 78, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn) 75 75, Haraldur Magnus (Isr) 72 78, Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) 74 76, Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 76 74, Kodai Ichihara (Jpn) 78 72, Jimmy Walker (USA) 72 78, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 76 74, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 71 79, Anirban Lahiri (Ind) 76 74, Pádraig Harrington 76 74

151 Retief Goosen (Rsa) 74 77, Matt Jones (Aus) 75 76, Shota Akiyoshi (Jpn) 77 74, Michael Hendry (Nzl) 73 78, Todd Hamilton (USA) 75 76, Patton Kizzire (USA) 77 74, Ryan Armour (USA) 75 76, Sandy Lyle 75 76

152 Danthai Boonma (Tha) 78 74

153 Min Chel Choi (Kor) 79 74, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 79 74, Grant Forrest 80 73, Jonas Blixt (Swe) 77 76

154 Yuxin Lin (a) (Chn) 80 74, Ian Poulter 73 81, Brady Schnell (USA) 79 75, Brandt Snedeker (USA) 76 78, Masanori Kobayashi (Jpn) 82 72

155 Jack Senior 79 76, Ash Turner 78 77

156 James Robinson 75 81

157 Andrew Landry (USA) 80 77

158 (a) Jovan Rebula (Rsa) 79 79, Jens Dantorp (Swe) 76 82

165 Darren Clarke 82 83

Gavin Green (Mal)
0925 Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed (USA)
0935 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Justin Rose
0945 Yusaku Miyazato (Jpn), Tyrrell Hatton
0955 Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley (USA)
1005 Ryan Fox (Nzl), Jason Dufner (USA)
1015 Bryson DeChambeau (USA), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
1025 Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)
1035 Paul Casey, Chris Wood
1045 Bernhard Langer (Ger), Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa)
1100 Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford (Aus)
1110 Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind)
1120 Cameron Smith (Aus), Brendan Steele (USA)
1130 Marc Leishman (Aus), Lee Westwood
1140 Byeong-Hun An (Kor), Kevin Na (USA)
1150 Julian Suri (USA), Adam Hadwin (Can)
1200 Gary Woodland (USA), Si Woo Kim (Kor)
1210 Yuta Ikeda (Jpn), Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn)
1220 Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Thomas Pieters (Bel)
1230 Beau Hossler (USA), Haotong Li (Chn)
1245 Cameron Davis (Aus), Sean Crocker (USA)
1255 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Stewart Cink (USA)
1305 Phil Mickelson (USA), Austin Cook (USA)
1315 Shaun Norris (Rsa), Tiger Woods (USA)
1325 Lucas Herbert (Aus), Michael Kim (USA)
1335 Jason Day (Aus), Francesco Molinari (Ita)
1345 Sung Kang (Kor), Webb Simpson (USA)
1355 Patrick Cantlay (USA), Eddie Pepperell
1405 Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka (USA)
1415 Kyle Stanley (USA), Adam Scott (Aus)
1430 Charley Hoffman (USA), Alex Noren (Swe)
1440 Ryan Moore (USA), Brandon Stone (Rsa)
1450 Luke List (USA), Danny Willett
1500 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Rickie Fowler (USA)
1510 Jordan Spieth (USA), Kevin Chappell (USA)
1520 Zander Lombard (Rsa), Tony Finau (USA)
1530 Matt Kuchar (USA), Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa)
1540 Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele (USA)
1550 Pat Perez (USA), Tommy Fleetwood
1600 Kevin Kisner (USA), Zach Johnson (USA)