Belfast & Northern Ireland

George Best 1946-2005

more than a year ago
In a city with more than its fair share of famous sons, few have ever had the charisma of football legend George Best. It was a charisma that was to carry the whispy lad from East Belfast from the back to the front pages of the world's newspapers. Yet, as George himself wanted, it's his dazzling skills on the pitch that will always remain Best's enduring legacy.


George was born on May 22, 1946 and grew up in East Belfast's Cregagh Estate. From a very early age George was football mad, and it was while playing for Cregagh Boys Club that he was spotted by legendary Manchester United scout, Bob Bishop.

At the tender age of 15, George travelled to Old Trafford and, despite early self-doubts, was taken under the wing of Sir Matt Busby.

When George Best, the Swinging Sixties and Manchester United Football Club collided, the impact was incredible. With his striking blue eyes, mop top hair and a string of female fans, the iconic Fifth Beatle was born.

Legendary career

During George's decade at the famous club, he chalked up 178 goals in 466 appearances, including six in one game against Northampton in 1970 and two against Benfica in a European Cup quarter-final in l966.

Two years later, the team won the tournament and Best was voted European Player of the Year. There is no doubt that, in his heyday, George Best was one of the most thrilling footballers the world had ever seen.

Back in Belfast, George was proud to don the Northern Ireland shirt. He scored nine goals in 37 games, including the infamously disallowed goal when he sneaked the ball from the arms of England 'keeper Gordon Banks, flicked it over his head and followed it to head over the line.

Despite George's undeniable genius, Northern Ireland's failure to qualify for the World Cup remained the one missing chapter in Best's footballing career.

Stints at several clubs, including a brief return to form in the USA, kept the crowds coming, but George's days as the world's greatest footballer were essentially over.

Personal strife

Personal problems, and the ongoing battle with alcoholism which was to eventually lead to his untimely death, continued to dominate the headlines.

But George's enduring love for the game kept him involved as a television pundit and continued to bring accolades from his sporting peers, including the 2002 BBC Sports Personality Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sad farewell

George Best died aged 59 on 25 November 2005 at Cromwell Hospital, London, leaving son Calum, dad Dickie, his brother and sisters.

On Saturday 3 December 2005 tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets to watch George Best's funeral cortege make the journey from his family home in East Belfast to the Great Hall at Stormont Parliament Building. Among others, tributes were payed by former teammate Denis Law, his surgeon Professor Roger Williams and son Calum.

Local singers Peter Corry and Brian Kennedy sang numbers personal to George and his family, and a tribute CD single featuring their performances became a chart success, raising money for the newly-established George Best Foundation, with money going to liver disease research and youth football initiatives.

George was laid to rest beside his mother Ann at Belfast's Roselawn Cemetery.

In May 2006 Belfast City Airport was renamed George Best Belfast City Airport. And in Nov 2006 the Ulster Bank issued one million £5 notes commemorating the life of this iconic footballer.

Throughout the world George Best will always be remembered as one of the world's most thrilling, skillful and entertaining football stars. 'Pele called me the greatest footballer in the world,' George once said. 'That is the ultimate salute to my life.'


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