Players from Polytechnic and Civil Service vie the ball in a Southern Amateur League soccer match on the ground of Buckingham Palace, London, on Monday. Photo: CFP
Prince William Photo: CFP
A goal was celebrated with a bow and the halftime drinks were served on silver platters when two of England's amateur teams played in Queen Elizabeth's back garden on Monday.
The palace has played host to pop concerts in the past, as well as two boxing matches, but never a game of soccer.
The game between Polytechnic and Civil Service, part of the FA's 150th anniversary celebrations, had begun with a stern warning from Prince William that anyone breaking a window would have his grandmother to answer to.
Civil Service and Polytechnic, 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.Long-lasting clubs
Civil Service is the sole surviving soccer 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 kickoff, 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 former England striker Michael Owen standing nearby, the Duke of Cambridge joked, "Michael's available as a super sub."
Although William did not play in the match, which took place beneath bright autumnal sunshine, he did take part in a training session alongside members of the palace's own soccer squad.
The self-proclaimed Aston Villa fan sported a pair of orange Nike soccer boots for the occasion, which were reportedly given to him as a gift by England striker Wayne Rooney.
The Civil Service team presented William with two miniature soccer shirts for his new son, Prince George, one red and one white, both with "HRH 1" on the back.
Polytechnic ran out 2-1 winners in what was a competitive fixture in the Southern Amateur League's first division that had the rare honor of being officiated by Webb on lawns more accustomed to garden parties.
The first goal was scored by Bojan Jelovac, a part-time tennis coach and model who escaped war-torn Bosnia when he was 6. He shunned traditional goal celebrations for a more regal approach.
"I kind of pre-planned my celebrations if I scored," the 28-year-old told reporters. "I worked out I was going to bow to the Prince if I scored but I couldn't see him, but I bowed anyway."
It was the first, and most likely last, match to be staged at the Palace since it was built more than 300 years ago and was the brainchild of Prince William, in his role as FA president.
The full-sized pitch was about the only conventional aspect of a match, watched by around 750 people, with Palace footmen serving refreshments in style at the break.
"We are very lucky to have the Duke of Cambridge as the president of the FA and one who could persuade his granny to let us use her back lawn. I think she agreed as long as none of the windows were broken," FA chair Greg Dyke said.
"I don't think there will ever be another match here like this one, but who knows what might happen when we are 200 years old."Great venues
Jelovac cracked home an unstoppable shot to give Polytechnic the lead before Sandy Smith made it 2-0 on 70 minutes with Dan Huxley pulling one back for Civil Service three minutes later.
"The standard was decent and I was impressed with a lot of play from both sides," said Webb, who is more used to being in charge at top Premier League and international matches.
"I've been lucky enough to referee in some of the great cathedrals of the game around the world, but never in a setting like this.
"Of course Buckingham Palace is one of the great venues of its kind in the world and not a football stadium, but it was a rare honor to be given the chance to play football here," added Webb.
"It was quite remarkable and something I never expected and never will forget."
The match followed a ceremony at the Palace when 150 people were awarded medals for their voluntary work by the Prince.
"What we are celebrating today is the work done by some 400,000 people who give up their spare time to make football what it is in this country - still keeping the game alive from the roots laid down all those years ago by the men who formed the clubs playing here today," FA general secretary Alex Horne said.
Agencies - Global Times