Prince William's Royal Influence on Football

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Prince William has always been a big fan of football -- or what is known as soccer to Americans.

As a young boy William kicked the ball with his mom, the late princess Diana, and his dad Prince Charles, before the divorce.

As a young man, his friends say he is not a great player, but not a bad one either.

Prince William, who also plays rugby and polo, is president of the FA, the football association that selects and sponsors England's team for the World Cup. He succeeded his uncle, Prince Andrew, who used to hold the post. The role is similar to being head of the NFL, except the prince doesn't have to negotiate team contracts. Some fans of the game hope that William will be a good influence on the sometimes unruly sport.

Sports seem to be in the DNA of the British royal family. Younger brother Prince Harry is also a polo and rugby competitor. Prince Charles used to thunder across the polo field until he fell and hurt his shoulder. William's aunt, Princess Anne, represented Britain on the equestrian team at the Olympics. Prince Phillip, the Queen's husband, is an expert carriage driver -- though he's had a bad bump or two in the road: He was caught on tape driving his carriage when it turned over. Queen Elizabeth herself has been mad about horses since she was a little girl. She even has a truck driver's license so she can lug her horses around the countryside.

Some Gentility for the Game of Hooligans

British soccer has sometimes been plagued by scandals, and violence on and off the field. The squeaky clean image of Prince William could be a huge boost.

"He could do a lot," one British man said. "He has got authority, he is young, he is part of the royal family, and he is part of the modern royal family."

But already, there has been some trouble for British fans. Police barred 3,600 people with histories of unruly behavior from attending the World Cup soccer matches under way in Germany. England beat Paraguay in its opening game 1 to 0.

Soccer/football is the national sport in many of the world's countries, including the United Kingdom. Even transplants from England flock to the pubs early in the morning to watch the game. They say that Americans, who have not really embraced soccer they way they have other sports, don't know what they are missing.

A Bit of England in New York

"I think America is more about your own sports, baseball and basketball," said Duncan MacLean, while watching the match against Paraguay at Nevada Smith's pub in New York. "When you come to love football, you realize this is the best of all. It breaks down all boundaries, and everyone loves it. I think Americans are very close. You can have a great World Cup and everyone can get behind your team."

MacLean and his friend Dean Smith joined their fellow compatriots for some early morning pints and revelry. They made sure to engage in their pre-game rituals. The pub was packed with fellow Brits.

"We go out the night before and have some drinks," said Smith. "[We] call each other, wear our new castle scarves."

It doesn't hurt the royals to be associated with the grass roots glamour of what fans call "the beautiful game" -- and the beautiful men, judging from the media frenzy over England star David Beckham and some of his teammates. They are Britain's sports royalty.

"Prince William can take some dress tips from David Beckham," one British woman said.

"Beckham is better looking than Prince William," said another. "But then, it's Prince William, and they both have the same amount of money."

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