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Kiyan Prince becomes the world’s first virtual footballer on FIFA 21

On the 15th anniversary of his tragic death, today Kiyan Prince returns to life as the professional footballer he should have been.

Prince, who was on the books of Queens Park Rangers, was just 15 years old when his life was tragically cut short after being stabbed attempting to break up a fight at his school in 2006.

But today, Kiyan has today become the world’s first virtual footballer with the help of EA Sports, after being added to QPR’s squad on FIFA 21.

Kiyan Prince will be available as a playable player within QPR’s squad in Kick-Off Mode and Career Mode in FIFA 21 from May 18 2021 on PC, and from May 19 2021 on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One consoles.

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Within FIFA Ultimate Team, from 18 May 2021, players can access custom Kiyan Prince vanity items through the completion of in-game objectives, including a Kiyan Prince Foundation Kit inspired by the 04/05 QPR home kit, and an honorary TIFO of Kiyan that appears every time a goal is scored.

In addition, Kiyan will be officially re-signed by QPR and given the squad number 30, while being listed as a squad member on all match day programmes, fulfilling his childhood dream.

With the support of Adidas, Kiyan will wear the 20/21 Adidas COPA boot in FIFA 21 and members of the public will see Kiyan’s likeness across some of the UK’s most iconic billboards, including Piccadilly Circus and Oxford Street, as part of a JD Sports advertising campaign. Topps are also introducing Kiyan into their Match Attax game, with a special edition collectable card.

The imagery of Kiyan being used in-game has been developed by Framestore, the special effects studio behind Avengers: Endgame, with input from the Prince family and scientists at the University of Bradford.

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Kiyan Prince aged 15 (left), pictured next to a virtual recreation of Kiyan Prince as the 30-year-old pro footballer he'd be today (right)
Kiyan Prince aged 15 (left), pictured next to a virtual recreation of Kiyan Prince as the 30-year-old pro footballer he’d be today (right)

A combination of advanced AI technology and photo-real illustration was used to virtually recreate Kiyan as the 30-year-old pro footballer he’d be today.

To find out more about how Kiyan Prince was virtually recreated on FIFA 21 by EA Sports, Mirror Football spoke exclusively to Ollie Wood-Smith, Data Collection & Licensing Producer at EA SPORTS, who answered our questions in the style of a Q&A.

Talk me through the process of how Kiyan Prince’s FIFA 21 player was created

“Adding Kiyan to FIFA 21 has been a team effort involving many different people from different departments and the support of close friends and family of Kiyan,” Said Wood-Smith.

“Once we’d created Kiyan in our database, we then needed to consider how to set his appearance and other data accurately with very little information and footage of him available online.

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Kiyan Prince digitally recreated on FIFA 21
Kiyan Prince digitally recreated on FIFA 21

“That’s where we really needed input from Kiyan’s close ones, so I can’t thank them enough for getting involved.

“We have included Kiyan at his boyhood club, QPR, as a 30-year-old player at the peak of his career, so that further complicated matters as we couldn’t just focus on how he appeared and played as a youngster.

How difficult was it from a technical point of view?

“From a technical side, the biggest challenge was creating the starhead (i.e. his manually created head in-game), specifically how we were going to provide an accurate and respectful representation of Kiyan to his family and to the world.

“Thankfully we have a team of very talented artists and received some fantastic support from Kiyan’s family (as well as some support from Engine), who provided renders that we were able to leverage to recreate the ideal likeness of Kiyan.

“Aside from this, adding Kiyan wasn’t of huge technical difficulty because it wasn’t much different to adding any other player, which is something we regularly do via live Match Day updates to the games.

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How much work went into making Kiyan’s individual attributes, playing style, weak foot and skill move ratings as realistic as possible?

“There are even more data fields than that which we needed to consider, including but certainly not limited to height, traits, body type and default celebrations.

“When it came to setting all of this player data, we felt it was vitally important to involve those who had regularly watched him play football to ensure he was created as accurately as possible.

“Kiyan’s father and founder of the Kiyan Prince Foundation, Mark Prince OBE, has been incredibly supportive throughout the entire process, jumping on multiple Zoom calls to provide as much guidance as he could.

Kiyan Prince digitally recreated on FIFA 21
Kiyan Prince digitally recreated on FIFA 21

“Lots of additional input was provided by Michael Harriman and Emmanuel Ofosu-Appiah, who were friends of Kiyan and had plenty of experience playing with him, as well as Joe Gallen, who is a former coach of his.

“We all dedicated many hours to ensuring we replicated Kiyan correctly, relative to the memory of those who knew him best, while maintaining the balance of making him a star player for QPR but not too highly rated for the club and the league.

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“Kiyan does have some great attributes for a striker – true to our various discussions about his attributes – so I think players are really going to enjoy playing with him in game modes such as Kick-Off, Career Mode and Online Seasons.

Has anything like this ever been attempted before?

“No, this is a truly unique venture within the FIFA franchise.

“Authenticity is so important to the game, we have always aimed to keep club squads in-game matching the real-life squads.

“The inclusion of Kiyan isn’t authentic to the true current QPR squad, but it is something which could have and should have been authentic were it not for the tragedy of his passing 15 years ago.

“The EFL and QPR were both really supportive of this campaign and we felt this was a perfect cause to allow such an exception, celebrating the memory of a young man who clearly left a huge impression on many people and died in such tragic circumstances.

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Kiyan Prince digitally recreated on FIFA 21
Kiyan Prince digitally recreated on FIFA 21

“I’ve learnt so much about Kiyan during this project and not only was he a very talented footballer, but he was also a great person who deserved to go on and have a brilliant career in football before his life was cruelly cut short.

“Adding Kiyan to the game also helps us provide exposure to the Kiyan Prince Foundation. I continue to be inspired by the work Mark and his team do to tackle knife crime and violence via the education of young people, so I’m grateful to have played a part in raising awareness of the Foundation.”

On Kiyan being added to FIFA 21, Dr Mark Prince OBE, Kiyan’s father , said: “I want my son to be remembered not for the tragedy of his death but for the triumph of his achievements.

“Through this campaign my hope is that the world finally gets to glimpse Kiyan’s incredible potential fulfilled.

“We get to honour his talent. And, hopefully, we can inspire other kids to honour their own talent too – whatever their own strengths might be.”

Les Ferdinand, Director of Football at QPR , said: “ As a club we have worked closely with the Kiyan Prince Foundation and it has been an honour to get to know Mark on a personal level during that time.

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“What he has been through is every parent’s worst nightmare and his response to such a tragedy has been truly inspiring.

“When we named our stadium after the Kiyan Prince Foundation in 2019, we invited Mark to the training ground to speak with our players.

“We felt it was important they understood the history of the Foundation and what it stood for.

“The squad were truly humbled by Mark’s bravery and his dedication to use his pain to prevent others from having to walk the same path he has had to walk.

“We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Mark and are delighted to see Kiyan in the QPR squad for the 2021/22 season.”

James Salmon, Marketing Director, EA SPORTS FIFA Brand, said: “By adding Kiyan in-game this year, we not only want to celebrate what an incredibly talented footballer he was and should have been, but also continue to offer EA SPORTS FIFA as a platform to raise awareness of the Kiyan Prince Foundation.”

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The campaign has been created on a pro bono basis by ENGINE and all proceeds raised are going directly to Kiyan Prince Foundation.

The Foundation’s work has seen Kiyan’s father Dr Mark Prince honoured with an OBE and led QPR to rename their ground the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium.

Members of the public who want to support the campaign can donate to the Kiyan Prince Foundation by texting KPF (then the amount) to 70490.

All brands involved in the campaign, including EA, Adidas and Topps Cards are donating money to the Kiyan Prince Foundation for licensing the likeness.

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