The World Cup qualifier in Wembley will attract 18,000 Poles, reinforcing London's credentials as a diverse European city, different from the rest of the UK
There's a big football match tonight. It's the England v Poland World Cup 2014 qualifier and it's a home game – for both sides.
That's because it's at Wembley and London is home to at least 150,000 Poles, making the British capital the 24th-largest Polish city in Europe. (Glance at the full list of Polish cities ranked by size, and London would sit precisely mid-table.) An estimated 18,000 tickets out of 90,000 have been allocated to the "visitors", which means that they will have a larger, more vocal support than many teams would expect at home.
You can play this game a lot with London these days. Boris Johnson enjoyed himself at the Tory party conference earlier this month, boasting that he was now "the mayor of the sixth biggest French city on earth". There are a decent number of Americans in London too, to say nothing of the Russians, Nigerians, Spaniards, Chinese, Germans and many, many others who have made their homes here.
In a global city such as London, the usual conventions don't apply. Wembley is the national stadium but it's also become a global one, belonging to each of the different nations who live in the capital. I was in the US when it hosted the World Cup in 1994 and attended the Italy v Mexico game. I'm not sure many had travelled from either country, but both sides had huge home support, thousands of Mexican-Americans and Italian-Americans converging on the RFK stadium in Washington DC. International fixtures at Wembley are only going to become more like that.
I'll be there tonight and the talk is of a party atmosphere, however jangled England nerves might be, knowing that only a win guarantees them a place at next year's finals in Brazil. (Poland, who cannot qualify, are playing for pride, which might make them all the more dangerous.) If the most hopeful forecasts are borne out, and the occasion is festive, it will be just the latest proof that these days most – not all – Londoners enjoy the variety of their city. The more diverse it becomes, the more connected it feels with the rest of the world. Tellingly, in the 2009 European elections, Ukip's worst performance in all of England and Wales was in London: the anti-EU party came second nationally but could only manage fifth place behind the Greens in the capital.
But that tells a double-edged story. Tonight's game will show how much London is part of Europe – and how very different it is from the rest of the UK.