Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Kiwis play in palace soccer game

Prince William is to host the soccer game at the palace. Photo / Getty Images
Prince William is to host the soccer game at the palace. Photo / Getty Images

Buckingham Palace will host a soccer match on its manicured lawns for the first time - and a handful of those making history will be Kiwis.

As part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Football Association in England, Prince William, the FA's president, has helped to arrange the game between two of England's oldest amateur clubs.

One, West London's Polytechnic FC, has a strong New Zealand contingent, with three of its first XI being Kiwis.

Coach Geoff Brown, also a New Zealander, said club members could not believe it when they were told the game would be at the palace.

"Everybody was all of a sudden telling me they are available to play ... everybody from across the club, old-timers who haven't been around for a while. There is a temptation to put myself down as a 14th man, but I don't think that would endear me to the players too well."

Prince William will host the October 7 event and also present medals to 150 volunteers. A groundsman will work with royal household gardeners to create a pitch within the 16ha garden.

Polytechnic's opponents will be fellow Chiswick club Civil Service FC, the only founding FA club still in existence.

"We've been around 138 years, so we're slightly younger than they are," Mr Brown told the Herald.

"When you pull into the train station, they're on the righthand side, we're on the lefthand side. I think the first time we played each other was about 120 years ago."

Mr Brown, who played for Wellington's Miramar Rangers in New Zealand, said the Kiwi players - Tom Lancaster, Nick Brandford and Justin Fredrickson - were all national representatives at youth level, or had national league experience. All were fully amateur now, and next month's game would probably be the biggest of their lives.

"I don't think anything could really compare to this ... On the prestige stage, this is second to none," Mr Brown said.

While Prince William would be in attendance, he said, the Queen was unlikely to watch the game.

"I think she'll be based at Balmoral for the day, which I think may be one of the reasons why it's been allowed to go ahead, I don't know if she'd be too keen to see a bunch of blokes playing football on her backyard."

Regardless, he would be on his best behaviour.

"I'm going to have to watch myself on the sideline and keep the expletives down to an absolute minimum, ie, zero."

- NZ Herald

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