Prince William welcomes football to Buckingham Palace

07 October 2013 11:46

Britain's Prince William welcomed footballers to Buckingham Palace on Monday as the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II prepared to stage the first football match in its 308-year history.

A match between two of England's oldest amateur teams was due to take place in the 39-acre gardens of the famous central London landmark as part of celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the Football Association.

William, president of the FA and second in line to the British throne, was on hand to award medals to 150 grassroots volunteers, although the Queen, his grandmother, was not present.

"This magnificent home, Buckingham Palace, is at the heart of the nation, and so there cannot be a more fitting setting to celebrate our national game, and to celebrate all of you," he told guests including FA chairman Greg Dyke and former England striker Michael Owen.

"I cannot tell you how excited I am that later today we will be playing football on my grandmother's lawn," he added, before joking: "One warning, though: if anyone breaks a window, you can answer to her."

Civil Service FC and Polytechnic FC, both from Chiswick in west London, were set to face off on a pitch specially prepared by a team led by the head groundsman from Wembley Stadium, Tony Stones.

Civil Service are the sole surviving football club from the 11 teams who founded the FA in a public house in central London in 1863 and later drafted the game's 13 original laws. Polytechnic were formed in 1875.

"At its best, football is a powerful force for good in society. It binds people from different backgrounds, communities, faiths and abilities -- and gives them a common interest, a unifying identity," William said.

"I believe over its 150 years, football has remained a wonderful example of the power of community and of our ability to come together to organise and to enjoy a simple pastime."

Paying tribute to the volunteers present, he added: "Reading through your citations, I don't think any of you realise quite how impressive what you do is.

"You change lives, you give people meaning, enjoyment, perspective, a release, an outlet; you bring people together and inject fun, laughter, passion, goals and challenges into others' lives.

"It is people like you who make our country what it is. I sincerely hope that you are immensely proud of your efforts and achievements."

Source: AFP