English husband and Croatian wife ‘will watch match at opposite ends of sofa’

Chris Stewart and his Croatian wife Ana-Maria Volaric prepare for the World cup semi-final match at their Taste Croatia food shop in Borough Market in Southwark, south London (John Stillwell/PA)

An England football fan and his Croatian wife will be “sitting at opposite ends of the sofa” as their home nations clash in the World Cup semi-final.

Chris and Ana-Maria Stewart plan to sit either side of their six-year-old daughter Isabel and friends in a bid to cool the tension on Wednesday.

The couple, who married 10 years ago after meeting in a bar, said they will watch the match on “mutual ground” at their home in north London but will celebrate no matter what the outcome as it is a “great result” for both teams.

For the occasion they have decorated their shop, the Taste Croatia deli in Borough Market, with both England and Croatian flags.

Believed to be the only Croatian deli in the UK since it opened eight years ago, customers have been coming in to buy produce to eat and drink while watching the game, Mr Stewart said.

The 50-year-old added: “We will be sitting at different ends of the sofa on Wednesday and we are thinking it’s best to watch it at home on mutual ground.

“Ana-Maria has lived here for 25 years but is still fiercely Croatian.

“I’m a football fan and a Spurs supporter. I’m obviously rooting for England, it was 1990 last time they were in the semi-final. It is a great success story for Gareth Southgate and the team, and for Croatia as well.

“We’re really pleased both England and Croatia are in the semi-final, they both deserve it. And I think we will be celebrating whatever the outcome, no-one expected either team to get this far.

“I, of course, believe England will win, and hopefully won’t have to go through to penalties as Croatia have been quite good on that.

“I just hope it won’t be too damaging for our marriage.

“Our daughter, who I taught Spurs songs from a young age and also speaks fluent Croatian, has been enjoying following the contest but I think she has divided loyalties.”

Mrs Stewart, née Volaric, who is also a chartered accountant, said their daughter is “definitely a mummy’s girl” and has been supporting Croatia “all the way”.

The 47-year-old added: “But I think she likes to jump up and down for all goals.

“We will keep her between us on the sofa during the game.

“I am hopeful Croatia will win but England have a lot of energy and I don’t think they’ve had as tough a route through the competition.

“I really don’t want another penalty shoot-out, it’s so stressful. I think it will be a really tough match.

“We knew it would be a possibility that the two teams would have to play each other so it wasn’t a huge shock. You kind of want it to happen but also don’t want it to happen at the same time.

“It means an incredible amount for Croatia and it’s great for England. Both teams have done so well.

“But this is why it’s been so brilliant, the contest has been so unpredictable this year. Anything could happen.”