LONDON (AP) — For countless fans, giving the heir to the British throne a kiss on the cheek is not usually the done thing.
But Paul Gascoigne, one of England’s all-time soccer greats, was never one for protocol — even during the heyday of his playing career three decades ago.
Gascoigne, affectionately known as Gazza, apparently felt no inhibition in giving Prince William a kiss on the cheek on Thursday after he turned up at a branch of the Pret A Manger sandwich chain in the southern England town of Bournemouth, where William was promoting efforts to rein in homelessness.
While in the shop, the prince spotted Gazza among those who had gathered to catch a glimpse of the Prince of Wales turning his hand at the coffee machine.
The pair spoke for a couple of minutes, with William clearly showing concern for Gazza, who has had a history of alcohol abuse and mental health problems.
“How are you, you alright?” asked William, who is a soccer fan and president of England’s Football Association.
They shook hands before Gazza planted a kiss on William’s cheek.
“It’s been a very interesting morning,” William said afterwards.
Gazza, 56, always had a reputation of not doing things by the book during his playing days. Pulling faces, cracking jokes, wearing false breasts — he often played the clown, endearing himself both to his team mates, coaches and fans.
Gascoigne is widely acknowledged to have been one of the most creative soccer players England has ever produced. He represented England 57 times, and played a key role in getting the team to the semifinal of the World Cup in 1990. His tears during that defeat to the then-West Germany have been credited with the renaissance of soccer in England, following years of crowd troubles.
William visited the Pret A Manger branch to discuss the chain’s plans to help 500 people who are homeless get jobs at its shops around the country. The chain made the commitment as part of its work with William’s Homewards initiative, his ambitious five-year project to end homelessness in six locations.