The large Polish community living in the UK make this Tuesday's fixture highly interesting. While the return tie at Wembley will spark more debate on the topic we look at why the game between England and Poland is such an interesting match-up... particulary for Everton's Phil Jagielka.
Regardless of the result in Tuesdays qualifier there is no doubt that there will be celebrations up and down the country due to the large Polish diaspora in the country.
On my commute to Reading town centre I see many areas that have gained notoriety and charming nicknames. You have ‘Lietuva Town’ home to the majority of migrant workers from Lithuania just as you pass the recently built and stunning looking mosque that dominates the skyline. All this multi-cultural living occurs on a street lined with terraced houses, butchers shops and traditional barbers; giving British tradition a modern globalised twist that, for me, makes it such an interesting place to live.
You also have ‘Little Poland’, with its Polish delicatessens and street side pub. ‘Gospoda’, as it is named, was a thriving hub during this summer’s European Championships. The atmosphere for the game with Russia was one of tense trepidation and hopeful belief.
The Polish migrational affect to the UK goes back far further then the establishment of, and their succession to the EU. Polish migrants are mentioned in Shakespearean literature and stem from the grain imports of the 16th century. The link between England and Poland is intrinsic in our countries education system. Every child is taught of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland and the subsequent World War.
English-Poles include famed novelist Joseph Conrad, Sir Jack Cohen the founder of Tesco and even the Miliband brothers are descendants of Polish ancestry.
In sport Carl Froch, Lisa Dobriskey and our very own centre-back Phil Jagielka all have claims to Polish heritage.
In recent years the Polish migration to the UK has escalated as they seek jobs in the more affluent UK after the early-80’s baby boom of communist Russia left many young Poles facing high rates of unemployment. The solution? They learnt English, German or French and emigrated in search of work. Indeed my current car mechanic is from Poland, and is easily the best mechanic I have ever had. He doesn’t do that sharp intake of breath before every sentence, letting you know that somehow he will make money out of you.
In 2001 the amount of Polish-born inhabitants of the UK stood at 60,680; now that figure is roughly 515,000 (although some commentators predict a total nearer to one million).
Despite a growing rate of re-patriation to their Polish homeland, which is starting to find its own feet in the EU, to work in construction, IT and finance there is still a huge Polish diaspora in the UK that will watch on intently come Tuesday night.
Whatever the scoreline there will be many a pub in locations such as Hammersmith, Ealing, Liverpool, Bristol, Bedford and Reading to name a few that will be celebrating the result in Warsaw.
Unless it’s a draw. Didn’t think about that.
image: © polandmfa