TWO nations will collide in Manaus tonight as England take on Italy in their opening World Cup match, but the showdown could be all the greater in the Pau household.
Gianni Pau, the owner of Italian restaurant Fabio in Bath Road, will be supporting Italy along with his two sons, Oliver, 13, and Christian, 11, but wife Karen, 45, will be backing the Three Lions.
Gianni and Karen have been married for 22 years, with numerous Anglo-Italian football clashes throughout the years, but when things get heated it is the latter who tries to keep it civil.
“The boys were both born here, but I just think they find the Italian game a lot more interesting,” said Karen.
“Unfortunately I am left to fight my own corner, but my sister does a good job of that usually.
“I tend to retreat to the kitchen to keep the peace, but when it reaches the later stages I do get a bit more nervous.
“Gianni’s very loud. As you can imagine, he gets very emotional and the flags come out.
“Last time, when Italy won (at Euro 2012), the horn on the car was used so much I think it broke.
“There’s likely to be some more of that happening if they go on to win. I seem to remember a broken wine glass when they won the World Cup in 2006, from a leg kicking out.
“I just let him revel in it.”
Karen, who works as a senior practice leader in art and design at New College, said her sons differ in their approach to the big match.
Oliver is described as the mellow 13-year-old, while Christian is a budding pundit, offering a running commentary throughout the match for his parents – though they may have a night off tonight, with him due to go to a special World Cup sleepover with friends in full Italian kit.
The boys, who live in Liddington with their parents, also play for Wanborough Junior Football Club.
The 11pm kick-off tonight is likely to give Gianni time to actually watch the game in full, as he finishes up service at his successful Old Town restaurant.
“I follow Italy big time. I am very pleased it’s on at 11pm, I should have time to get home from the restaurant and watch it,” he said.
“My wife’s been telling me we have no chance tonight. She says it’s going to be an English game, but I have told her ‘no way’.”