By Declan Fitzpatrick
One of the greatest footballers of all time, George Best, was born on 22 May, 1946 in Belfast’s, Creagagh Estate. The first child of Richard and Anne Best, he’d four sisters: Carol, Barbara, Julie and Grace. When George was only 15 a talent scout spotted him playing. He immediately sent a telegram to Manchester United’s manager, Matt Busby. “I think I’ve found you a genius,” it read.
At the early age of 17, George Best first started playing with Manchester United. He was the club’s top goal scorer in the League for five consecutive seasons. However, when he first went to Manchester United he was homesick and only stayed for two days before returning home.
In 1974, he left Manchester United but played for a number of clubs around the world, including some in Ireland. He made his League of Ireland debut against Drogheda United at Flower Lodge on 28 December, 1976. He’d a brief spell at Cork Celtic in December 1975 and played in a friendly for Newry Town against Shamrock Rovers in August 1983.
On 24 January, 1978 he married Angela McDonald-Janes in the Candlelight Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas and they’d one son, Calum. George Best retired from professional football in 1987, aged 37. During his truly remarkable career he was capped 37 times. Interestingly, he was one of the first celebrity footballers. In 1966, because of his long hair, he was nicknamed “El Beatle” and “Belfast Boy”.
“George Best was the greatest player in the world”, said his contemporary, Brazilian player, Pelé. He was voted eight in the World Soccer 100 greatest footballers of the twentieth century. As one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed personalities of the 1960s-70s, George had other interests outside football. He owned clubs and restaurants in Manchester. He also advertised Ireland’s famous “Cookstown Sausages” on TV, with the catchy slogan “The Best Family Sausages”. Later, a memorial plaque was placed outside the factory in Co. Tyrone town and a leading fashion magazine once dubbed him as “One of the 50 most stylish men”.
George Best will always be remembered in Ireland. On what would have been his 60th birthday, Belfast City Airport was renamed ‘George Best Belfast City Airport’. As a lasting tribute to this Irish football genius, in 2006, Fabergé, Russia’s Imperial Jeweller, was commissioned to create the exquisite George Best Egg. A rare and limited edition of 68 eggs was produced – with all profits from their sales going to the George Best Foundation, which promotes health through sports.
George Best, Ireland’s famous footballer, died on 25 November, 2005. He was 59.