Buckingham Palace hosts first match

Reuters, LONDON

Wed, Oct 09, 2013 - Page 18

A goal was celebrated with a bow and the halftime drinks were served on silver platters when two of England’s oldest amateur teams played in Queen Elizabeth II’s back garden on Monday in the first soccer match to be staged at Buckingham Palace.

The game between Polytechnic and Civil Service, part of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Football Association (FA), had begun with a stern warning from Prince William that anyone breaking a window would have his grandmother to answer to.

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 2010 World Cup final referee Howard 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 six. 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 the 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 about 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 chairman 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.”

Civil Service were chosen to take part as, like the FA, they are also celebrating their 150th anniversary and are the only surviving club of the 11 who founded the organization in 1863.

It turned out to be a more successful afternoon for their opponents, themselves one of the oldest clubs in the country having been formed in 1875.

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, whose next game is a World Cup qualifier between Croatia and Belgium in Zagreb on Friday. “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.