World Cup final a challenge to Nick Clegg's other coalition

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Indy Politics

Tensions will run high in the Deputy Prime Minister's house this Sunday evening when the Netherlands take on Spain in the World Cup final.

Nick Clegg's wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, who was born in the Spanish village of Olmedo, north-west of Madrid, will naturally be cheering on her homeland, along with her two football-mad eldest sons, Antonio, eight, and Alberto, five.

You might expect Mr Clegg, in the interests of domestic harmony, to join them in rooting for David Villa's team.

The Liberal Democrat leader has, after all, displayed the diplomatic skills required to bring a huge range of political opinions under one banner.

But there will be no footballing coalition around the Clegg family television: instead he hopes it will be the Dutch captain, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who will lift the Jules Rimet trophy in Johannesburg.

Although he married a Spaniard – and speaks the language at home with the family – Mr Clegg is, as he puts it, "biologically half-Dutch". His mother, Hermance van den Wall Bake, was interned as a child with her family in 1942, when the Japanese invaded Indonesia, which was then under Dutch rule. The family returned after the Second World War to the Netherlands where her father pursued a lucrative career in banking.

Hermance met Nicholas Clegg Snr, the son of the Russian-born Baroness Kira von Engelhardt, in Britain in 1956. The couple married and settled down in Buckinghamshire, bringing up four children, including the future Liberal Democrat leader. As a result, Dutch is one of the several languages that multilingual Clegg mastered as a child. A rare aptitude for a Briton, it helped him to stay in touch with his Dutch cousins and proved a unusual asset during his stint in Brussels as a Euro MP.

During the last week of the general election, as he toured the country in a bus with a Dutch-style orange livery, he was even followed on the campaign trail by a film crew from RTL Nederland.

"Everyone is amazed that such a high-profile political figure not only speaks Dutch but speaks it fluently," the RTL correspondent Vanessa Lamsvelt said at the time.

Mr Clegg's office confirmed last night he would be supporting the Netherlands on Sunday, but declined to give a further explanation.

Having young sons has helped awaken an interest in football for Mr Clegg, whose first sporting love is skiing. He even left a Downing Street garden party for the press early on Wednesday evening – at which he sported a bright orange tie – to be home in time for Spain's semi-final clash with Germany.

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