The father of murdered teenage footballer Kiyan Prince “cried and cried” after deepfake technology was used to bring his son back to life for FIFA 21, the game’s new edition.
Talented Kiyan, 16, who played for Queens Park Rangers’ youth team, was stabbed to death trying to break up a fight outside his north London school 15 years ago.
Gaming giant EA Sports on Tuesday fulfilled Kiyan’s childhood dream by officially re-signing him to the QPR team with the squad number 30 on its global hit franchise.
Advanced AI technology was utilised to recreate Kiyan as a 30-year-old professional allowing FIFA 21 fans to play as him.
Developers from Framestore - the special effects studio behind Avengers: Endgame - uploaded pictures and videos of Kiyan as a teenager.
The team at University of Bradford then worked closely with his family, friends, ex-teammates and coaches to integrate on-pitch characteristics and style of play into the likeness.
Anti-knife crime campaigner Dr Mark Prince, told the Standard: “It was two years in the making and when I finally saw the result, there were lots of tears.
“To see your son alive again? Oh man, I was terrified. I broke down and cried and cried. At 30, he could have been captain of England.
“I want Kiyan to be remembered not for the tragedy of his death but for the triumph of his achievements.
“Through this, 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 too - whatever their strengths might be.”
Kiyan was killed after intervening in a tussle between a pal - also 15 - and Hannad Hasan, then 16, on May 18, 2006.
Expelled Hasan, jealous of Kiyan’s popularity, grabbed him and plunged a penknife into his chest outside the London Academy, Edgware.
Kiyan was dubbed The Bullet because of his speed and tipped to play for England. Hasan was jailed for life for murder in 2007.
Former boxer Dr Prince OBE, who set up the Kiyan Prince Foundation to inspire vulnerable young people, added: “I work with young teenagers who have killed and put people in my position.
“They might as well have done it to me, it makes no difference. But I’ve had to love and help them like I would any other young person.”
With the support of Adidas, Kiyan will wear the 20/21 Copa boot in FIFA 21.
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 trading card.
QPR will list Kiyan as a squad member on all matchday programmes, having already renamed their ground the Kiyan Prince Foundation Stadium in 2019.
Director of Football Les Ferdinand 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.
“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.
“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.”
Former England striker Mr Ferdinand hopes the new initiative will encourage more youngsters to put down their knives.
He added: “Loads of young guys play FIFA, and they will see this and think about not just him losing his life, but his family, the part of their lives that was lost.
“Hopefully this is something that might be able to prick someone’s conscience and think, ‘well you know what, let’s put this knife down’.”
James Salmon, marketing director of EA Sports FIFA, added: “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 as a platform to raise awareness of the Kiyan Prince Foundation.”
Kiyan will be available in FIFA 21’s kick-off and career mode from today on PC and tomorrow on PlayStation 5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One consoles.
Anyone wanting 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 Sports, Adidas and Topps are donating money to the Kiyan Prince Foundation for licensing the likeness.