‘He won’t let me hear the end of it’ – England versus France divides families

England and France will clash on Saturday for a place in the semi-finals at the 2022 World Cup.

Max McLean
Saturday 10 December 2022 00:01 GMT
England fan Tom Thewlis (left) and on the right, Alexia Leachman, whose daughters support England (Tom Thewlis and Alexia Leachman)
England fan Tom Thewlis (left) and on the right, Alexia Leachman, whose daughters support England (Tom Thewlis and Alexia Leachman)

Families divided by football allegiances are preparing for England’s blockbuster World Cup quarter-final against France on Saturday, with mother-daughter relationships and boastful Kylian Mbappe emails adding intrigue to the spectacle.

The winner of the game between Gareth Southgate’s side and Didier Deschamps’ 2018 winners will go into the semi-finals in Qatar with every chance of lifting the 18-carat solid gold trophy.

The contest on the pitch will not be the only clash, with some families preparing for the “light-hearted rivalry” that only comes with divided national loyalties.

Alexia Leachman, 48, grew up in Cardiff but is also French and now lives in Uzes in the south of France – her two daughters, Lila, 12, and Sofia, eight, are both English, however, and big football fans also.

“I’m Welsh but I’m also French, I’m dual national, so I feel very French and I feel very Welsh, but I do not feel English at all,” Ms Leachman, author of Clear Your Head Trash, told the PA news agency.

“The match is going to be interesting because they’re all going to be supporting England.”

Ms Leachman said her daughters are “both really into football” and said that while she expects some “very good-hearted” banter, she will not be doing any “mollycoddling” no matter the result.

“I’ll be kind of supporting England but (for Saturday) I really haven’t decided which one I’m going to do, I’m torn, totally torn,” she said.

“I just don’t know, because I don’t really care for England winning!

“I have a kind of ranking. I’ll always support Wales first and foremost. And then if Wales aren’t playing, then it’ll be France, so strictly speaking if I follow my own code I should be supporting France on Saturday. It’s not going to be easy!

“I think they’re just going to lay into me, a bit of banter, very good-hearted. I’ll just annoy them and I’ll go with whoever wins … we’ll see what happens!

“I don’t do any mollycoddling or wrapping in cotton wool, they’ve got to learn football banter really, haven’t they?”

Meanwhile, Tom Thewlis, 30, from Oxford, has been enjoying some email-based stick from his French uncle, who believes the daunting prospect of France’s Kylian Mbappe – the tournament’s top scorer – will prove too much for England right-back Kyle Walker.

“My uncle is a bit of a joker. He’s always kind of put the boot in, particularly when we were knocked out in the semis in Russia (2018),” Mr Thewlis, a cycling journalist, told PA.

“He’s already been emailing me this week talking to me about how Kylian Mbappe’s going to have the last laugh over Kyle Walker, all that kind of thing, and just sort of a general exchange of banter.

“I’m a big cyclist myself. So, I’ve kind of always had the bragging rights that we’ve won the Tour de France more times than they have in however many years – I mean, that’s kind of like a running joke in our family that I’ve got over him.

“Now there’s obviously the rugby, France have had the upper hand with us on a few occasions, and then all of a sudden this.”

Mr Thewlis – who goes to see his French family every year – described the banter as a “light-hearted rivalry” and said it adds a bit of extra meaning to a game which he is “quietly confident” about.

“It makes what to some people could just be a game against France a bit more than that,” he said.

“I think on this occasion he’ll wait until afterwards and then when I see him next year, if France were to win on Saturday, next summer when I get over there he won’t let me hear the end of it, put it that way.

“I’m quietly confident, I’ve got a funny feeling about it – there’s just something about this group, a young group of players that seem to not take themselves too seriously. There’s a lot of belief there.”

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