Promotional materials for the latest player to be added to Fifa 21 show Kiyan Prince scoring a goal. He takes a shot with his left foot, over the lunge of a despairing defender, and watches it fly into the roof of the net. Running off in celebration with his arms wide, he shouts in delight. Then he turns and shows his shirt to the crowd: Queens Park Rangers’ number 30.
Prince, who was once the most promising talent in the QPR academy, would have been 30 this year, but in 2006 he died at the gates of his school in north London. In a notorious incident Prince was stabbed in the heart with a penknife as he tried to break up a fight. The killer, who called the knife a “little toy”, was 16.
Now, 15 years later, the life and legacy of Kiyan Prince is to be commemorated with his addition to EA Sports’ blockbuster video game. He will have his own playing card in the game Match Attax too. He will also be given his own squad number by QPR, that 30, a move that follows a decision by the club’s supporters two years ago to rename their stadium after the foundation that bears Prince’s name, a charity dedicated to persuading young, disenfranchised people to stay away from knives.
“He was so far above everyone else,” says Michael Harriman of his friend. The pair were in the same year at school and both made it to the QPR academy. Now Harriman is a professional, playing for Northampton Town. “People like me envy those types of players because I work so hard for what I do, and he made the game look so easy. The way he was built; he was quick, he was athletic, he was strong. He could use his right foot, his left foot, he could use his head. He had every attribute that you look at nowadays and think: that’s what you need to be a professional footballer.”
Prince was a popular boy, with stories of selfless behaviour common amongst his contemporaries at the London Academy. “He was just so loving,” Harriman says. “He was fantastic, you know, and it hurt a lot of people when the event happened. With his infectious personality it was always going to be tough for a lot of people and to this day it still is. There’s not a day goes past where people don’t remember him, I know I certainly do. I’m trying to carry on his legacy for myself on the football pitch, which I hope I’ve done and I hope he’s proud of.”
Home Office statistics show that, since April 2009, 205 children aged 17 or under have been killed by an attack with a sharp object in England and Wales. Figures have peaked in the past two years, with 22 children dying in both 2019 and 2020. London accounts for a disproportionate number of knife crime offences, with 152 per 100,000 of population in the year ending September 2020, compared to 79 per 100,000 elsewhere.
Since his son’s death Dr Mark Prince has dedicated his life to trying to bend those numbers in a different direction. A former professional boxer, he is the chief executive of the Kiyan Prince Foundation which attempts to reach out to young at-risk people through motivational speaking and life coaching and uses boxing as a tool for self-development. Prince sees the Fifa game as a way of engaging people that might be otherwise hard to reach.
“Whatever young people are up to most of them will have a console and play games,” Prince says. “The numbers that play games include the guys that are on the streets who probably wouldn’t go to social services, who probably wouldn’t go on a course.”
Players of Fifa 21 can adopt Kiyan in ‘career mode’ making him their avatar as they go through the game. In the Ultimate Team mode, players can redeem prizes – like a custom QPR shirt – which are tagged with the Foundation’s logo and link through to their services.
“Now here’s a platform in the game where you can access the support that you need,” Prince says. “Why? Because you’re inspired by this young guy who plays football who’s not here. That will intrigue every individual. He’s not alive, why is this guy so special? Why is he in the game? You’re going to be drawn to find out why. And when you find out that he was stabbed and you know that you carry a knife and you know other people who carry knives, there’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity where you might be thinking: ‘I don’t have any purpose, I’d love to be confident, what is my potential?’ All these questions come into every individual’s mind.”
Dr Prince, who was awarded the OBE in 2019 for his work with young people, doesn’t like to talk about “knife crime” and prefers instead to concentrate on giving struggling young people the tools to succeed. “Their environment, poverty, the chances they have, culture, abuse, their background, all that pales into insignificance to the power that they have to move forward,” he says. He also laments the way in which these same young people are written off, with no effort made by society at large to understand and help them.
“When we think success, a lot of people just think finance, but we’re trying to teach people that success is about how you think,” Prince says. “This is the message that Kiyan sends out. They start understanding from Kiyan’s life that it was his character that enabled him to have the name that he’s got and become the legend that he is.”
Prince admits the death of his son has never got less painful, but says the inspiration that comes from Kiyan’s life is what keeps him going. “Even when he dies he can’t be forgotten,” he says, “because he lived for something and he cared about people. He’s a living example for all young people, he’s the model for them to follow.”
You can support the Kiyan Prince Foundation by texting KPF (then the amount) to 70490. For more information: visit thekpf.com