George Best (22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005) was a Northern Irish professional football player, best known for his years with Manchester United. He was a winger whose game combined pace, acceleration, balance, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to beat defenders. In 1968, his annus mirabilis, he won the European Cup with Manchester United, and was named the European Footballer of the Year. When fit, he was an automatic choice for the Northern Ireland team, but he was unable to lead them to the World Cup qualification, despite being capped 37 times and scoring nine goals.
In 1999 he was voted 11th, behind Marco van Basten, at the IFFHS European Player of the Century election and 16th, behind Lothar Matthäus, in the World Player of the Century election. Pelé named him as one of the 125 best living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list and Best was named 19th, behind Gerd Müller, at the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll. In his native Northern Ireland the admiration for him is summed up by the local saying: "Maradona good; Pelé better; George Best.
He was one of the first celebrity footballers, but his extravagant lifestyle led to problems with alcoholism which curtailed his playing career and eventually led to his death in November 2005 at the age of 59. His cause of death was a kidney infection, a side-effect of the immuno-suppressive drugs he was required to take after a liver transplant. Best's lovable, cheeky image won him many fans, during his career and after, despite his public drunkenness on TV, his convictions for drunk driving and assaulting a policeman, allegations of domestic violence, and his inability to give up drinking even after the transplant. GQ named him as one of the 50 most stylish men of the past 50 years.
In 1957, at the age of 11, the academically gifted Best won a scholarship to Grosvenor Grammar School, but he soon played truant as the school specialised in rugby and his school blazer identified him as a Protestant, attracting sectarian abuse. Best then moved to Lisnasharragh Secondary School, reuniting him with friends from primary school and allowing him to focus on football.
Best made his Manchester United debut, aged 17, on 14 September 1963 against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford in a 1-0 victory. Two weeks later Best scored his first goal against Burnley. By the close of the season Best had six goals, and Manchester United finished second, behind champions Liverpool.
Best hit the headlines the age of twenty when he scored two goals in a European Cup quarter-final match against Benfica in 1966, and was dubbed "O Quinto Beatle" (The Fifth Beatle) in the press.
Best's talent and showmanship made him a crowd and media favourite. He was dubbed "the fifth Beatle" for his long hair, good looks and extravagant celebrity lifestyle, and even appeared on Top of the Pops in 1965. Other nicknames included the "Belfast Boy" and he was often referred to as Georgie or Geordie in his native Belfast.
The 1966-67 season was again successful as Manchester United claimed the league title by four points. The following season Best became a European Cup winner after scoring in the final against Benfica. United won 4-1 and Best was later crowned European Footballer of the Year and Football Writers' Association Player of the Year; after that began a steady decline.
He opened two nightclubs in Manchester, in the late 1960s, Oscar's and the other called Slack Alice's (which later became 42nd Street Nightclub). He also owned fashion boutiques, in partnership with Mike Summerbee of Manchester City. However, he developed problems with gambling, womanising and alcoholism.
In total Best made 466 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions from 1963 to 1974, and scored 178 goals (including six in one game against fourth division Northampton Town). He was the club's top scorer for six consecutive seasons, and was the First Division's top scorer in the 1967-68 season.
Over the next decade he went into an increasingly rapid decline, drifting between several clubs, including spells in Ireland, America, Scotland, and Australia.
In his third season in the States, Best scored only once in 12 appearances. His moves to Fort Lauderdale and San Jose were also unhappy, as his off-field demons began to take control of his life again. After failing to agree terms with Bolton Wanderers in 1981, he was invited as a guest player and played three matches for two Hong Kong First Division teams in 1982, as well as Dunstable Town F.C. in 1973.
In 1988, a testimonial match was held for Best at Windsor Park. Among the crowd were Sir Matt Busby and Bob Bishop, the scout who discovered Best, while those playing included Ossie Ardiles, Pat Jennings and Liam Brady. Best scored twice, one goal from outside the box, the other from the penalty spot.
On 15 May 1971, Best scored possibly his most famous "goal" of his career at Windsor Park in Belfast against England. As Gordon Banks, the English goalkeeper, released the ball in the air in order to kick the ball downfield, Best managed to kick the ball first, which sent the ball high over their heads and heading towards the open goal. The famous duo scrambled towards the net but Best outpaced Banks and headed the ball into the empty goal. His effort was disallowed for ungentlemanly conduct by a referee whose back had been turned away from the incident.
On 2 February 2004, Best was convicted of another drunk driving offence and banned from driving for 20 months.
In September 1990, Best appeared on an edition of primetime BBC chat show Wogan in which he was clearly drunk and swore, at one point saying to the host, "Terry, I like screwing". He later apologized and said this was one of the worst episodes of his alcoholism.
In August 2002, he had a successful liver transplant at King's College Hospital in London. In 2003, he was the focus of much criticism when, despite his transplant, he openly drank white wine spritzers. Also in 2004, his second wife Alex Best appeared as a contestant on the reality television programme I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! and alleged that Best was violent towards her during their marriage.
Best continued to drink, and was sometimes seen at his local pub in Surbiton, Greater London. On 3 October 2005 Best was admitted to intensive care at the private Cromwell Hospital in London, suffering from a kidney infection caused by the side-effects of immuno-suppressive drugs used to prevent his body from rejecting his transplanted liver. On 27 October, newspapers stated that Best was close to death and had sent a farewell message to his loved ones. Best's condition improved at first, but deteriorated again in November. On 20 November the British tabloid News of the World published a picture of Best at his own request, showing him in his hospital bed, along with what was reported to be his final message: "Don't die like me".
Best's "farewell" message was seen as a way of warning others not to risk suffering a similar fate as a result of alcoholism.
In the early hours of 25 November 2005 treatment was stopped; he eventually died, aged 59, after a battle that lasted longer than doctors had expected, at 13:06 GMT that day as a result of a lung infection and multiple organ failure.
The FA Premier League announced that a minute's silence would be observed before all Premiership games to be held over the weekend of his death; this was ignored at many grounds, in favour of a minute's applause in his honour. The first match at Old Trafford after Best's death was a League Cup tie against West Bromwich Albion, the club against which he made his début for Manchester United in 1963. The match, which United won, was preceded by tributes from former team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton. Best's son Callum and former team-mates, surviving members from the West Bromwich Albion team which he played against in his début, all joined the current United squad on the pitch for a minute's silence, during which fans held aloft pictures of Best, which were given out before the match.
Comments and reflections were made in the public that, with some irony given the circumstances surrounding his death, Best died on the day that 24-hour licensing laws came into effect. This, however, was not true, as the laws actually came into effect the day before.
Public opinion in Northern Ireland about the renaming of the airport was divided, with one poll showing only 52% in favour and 48% against. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader and East Belfast Member of Parliament Peter Robinson, in whose constituency Belfast City airport is situated, stated that his preference was a sports stadium be named after Best. The move generated negative comments beyond Northern Ireland.
In June 2006, Sarah Fabergé, great-granddaughter of Russian Imperial Jeweller Carl Fabergé was commissioned to create the George Best Egg, in tribute. A strictly limited edition of 68 eggs were produced, with all profits from the sale of the eggs going to the George Best Foundation. The first egg from the collection is now on permanent public display at the George Best Airport.
Current plans for a new national stadium for Northern Ireland near Lisburn include a proposed statue of Best as one of several celebrating sporting heroes from the country. These statues would surround the main sporting arena and Best would be joined by rugby player Willie John McBride, Gaelic Athletic Association player Cormac McAnallen, Olympic gold medalist Mary Peters, Grand National winner Richard Dunwoody, Grand Prix driver Eddie Irvine, Motor cycle World champion Joey Dunlop and snooker world champion Alex Higgins.
In December 2006 the George Best Memorial Trust launched a fund-raising drive to raise £200,000 in subscriptions to pay for a life-size bronze sculpture of George Best. By 2008 the money had still not been raised until a local developer, Doug Elliott, announced on 29 January 2008, that he would put up the rest of the money and would manage delivery of the project.
George Best's autobiographies include:
In the year 1970, German avantgarde film director Hellmuth Costard made a film entitled "Fußball wie noch nie", translated into English as "Football like never before". The film shows only Best, filmed from 8 cameras, during a regular Manchester United match. The film was screened in the year 1971 by German public broadcast ARD.
In 1984 Best made a fitness video with Mary Stavin called "Shape Up And Dance".
A warts-and-all biopic simply entitled Best was released in the year 2000. The film pulled no punches in chronicling Best's struggles within his personal life and footballing career - showing the full extent to which Best's personal battle with alcoholism and his hedonistic lifestyle played in bringing an end to the footballing career of one of the game's most naturally gifted players of all time. The Mary McGuckian directed film starred John Lynch (actor) as George Best, Ian Bannen as Matt Busby, Roger Daltrey as Rodney Marsh, and Jerome Flynn as Bobby Charlton. The film also featured Patsy Kensit and Sophie Dahl as Best's love interests. Best was released in UK cinemas on 12 May 2000, and was subsequently released on Region 2 PAL DVD on 27 January in the year 2003 by Mosaic Movies.
Indie rock band The Wedding Present named their first album after him. He is featured on the cover wearing his red Manchester United kit. Best has also been mentioned in the song "In the name of the Father" written by Bono, Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer and performed by Bono and Gavin Friday.
Former frontman of Men At Work (now solo artist) Colin Hay and Heather Mills re-released Hay's "My Brilliant Feat" in 2005 as a digital single. The re-release in memory of Best's then recent passing gave all proceeds to charity. In Another Colin Hay song, "Are You Lookin' At Me?", Best is mentioned: "Well I love the Lone Ranger, and I love that Dennis Small. Him and George Best sure knew how to kick a ball."
His fellow Belfast-man Van Morrison mentioned George Best in his song "Too Long In Exile": "I've been too long in exile, like George Best, baby".
In the Irvine Welsh novel "Glue", the main characters attend a fictional Hibernian match which Best competes in. The crowd sings "His Name is Georgie Best"
Elsewhere, Best has been mentioned in numerous other songs, television shows and internet articles, most recently inspiring the song "Where Did It All Go Wrong Mr Best?" on the 2008 album Bingo by Rinaldi Sings.
Georgie Best Has Stirred Up a Hornet's Nest over Becks. Did He Really Get It Wrong? George Best Scathingly Criticised David Beckham in Yesterday's Sportsmail after the Manchester United and England Player (below Right) Was Named Runner-Up to Barcelona's Rivaldo as World Player of 1999. Today, We Debate Whether Best, Pictured after His Induction into FIFA's International Hall Champions on Tuesday, Was out of Order
Jan 26, 2000; Byline: KEN LAWRENCE;NIGEL CLARKE DAVID BECKHAM could take the field complete with bandana and sarong and still strike terror...