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'Mind the windows!' William tells palace footballers

07 October 2013, 18:24

London - Britain's Prince William warned footballers to watch the Buckingham Palace windows on Monday as Queen Elizabeth II's official residence staged the first football match in its 308-year history.

A match between two of England's oldest amateur teams was taking 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 oversee the event, 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 volunteers and 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, faced 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.

Prior to kick-off, William shook hands with the players and spoke to match referee Howard Webb, Britain's most high-profile referee, who previously took charge of the 2010 World Cup final.

With Owen standing nearby, the Duke of Cambridge joked: "Michael's available as a super sub."

The Civil Service team presented William with two miniature football shirts for his new son, Prince George -- one red and one white, both with 'HRH 1' on the back.

Earlier, William had handed out medals to 150 grassroots football volunteers and praised the sport's role in British society.

"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," he 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: "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."



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