World Cup 2014: So, whose side are you on, Mr Clegg?

The voters need to know. Are you supporting your Dutch mother's team, siding with your Spanish wife, or are you just an old softie?
  • @janemerrick23

Never mind having to choose between Labour and the Conservatives to form a coalition government in the national interest. Nick Clegg has had to wrestle with a far more personally traumatic dilemma: whether to support Holland or Spain in the World Cup.

While the Deputy Prime Minister is, of course, backing England in the Brazil tournament, Friday's Group B match between Holland and Spain – a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final – left him with divided loyalties.

In theory, as someone whose mother is Dutch, the Deputy Prime Minister should have been rooting for Robin van Persie's team. But his wife, Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, is Spanish and their sons, Antonio, 12, Alberto, nine, and five-year-old Miguel have been brought up supporting both England and Spain.

So, as befits a believer in equidistance, Mr Clegg could be forgiven for hoping that Friday's match would have ended in a draw. Yet as the Spanish-supporting branch of the Clegg clan watched the European and World champions concede goal after goal to Holland, ending with a humiliating 5-1 defeat, the Deputy Prime Minister swung behind Spain – presumably out of sympathy.

"Their sons are of an age where they can only remember Spain being the best team in the world," a source said.

"His children are half‑Spanish and his wife is Spanish. It cannot have been a pleasant experience watching them lose."

What complicates matters further is that Mr Clegg is an Arsenal fan and regularly takes his sons to the Emirates. Van Persie, who scored twice in Friday's game, was an Arsenal striker before moving to Manchester United two years ago.

But has Mr Clegg switched sides in the past four years? In July 2010, ahead of the World Cup final between Spain and Holland, a spokesman for Mr Clegg said the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister sided with his Dutch mother, Hermance. Mrs Clegg, 77, is understood to be a strident, tough woman, and the Lib Dem leader was proud of his family roots, his aides said at the time. Holland lost the final 1-0. Perhaps Mr Clegg just likes to be on the losing side.

Last night's England match against Italy will also have sparked split loyalties among many in the country's 130,000 Anglo-Italian community and the tens of thousands of English people married to Italian citizens, who will face similar dilemmas.

Famous couples who may have separated along national lines include English actor Colin Firth and his Italian-born wife, the documentary-maker Livia Giuggioli, and the Italian jockey Frankie Dettori and his English wife, Catherine.

Another torn household is that of Tim Parks, author of An Italian Education, and his Italian wife, translator Rita Baldassarre. They have lived together near Verona since 1981.