Belfast was brought to a standstill when the remains of soccer legend George Best were returned to Roselawn Cemetery outside the city. Best, aged 59, widely regarded as one of the world’s greatest ever soccer players, died from multiple organ failure. The ex-footballer had a liver transplant three years ago in an effort to cope with deteriorating health due to alcoholism.
The Belfast man’s wizardry on the field and his playboy lifestyle off it elevated him as the game’s first soccer superstar. He joined Manchester United as a teenager and went on to star in the European Cup-winning side of 1968. However, his career was cut short by injuries and multiple distractions of life as a celebrity. “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars,” he famously remarked. “The rest I just squandered.”
A cortege drove slowly from his family home in Cregagh to a service at Stormont before burial in Roselawn. The hearse was applauded gently by a watching crowd estimated at over 100,000, bringing the tragic star’s short life to a dignified end.
Best’s passing was the second bombshell to hit the Manchester club. Team captain Roy Keane sensationally left the club mid-season to join Glasgow Celtic. Keane’s departure followed a very public falling-out with club manager Alex Ferguson.
The 34-year-old Corkman, who retired from international football with Ireland this year, was revered by supporters at Manchester United. The abrupt end to his 12-year club career heightened growing disillusionment among fans since the club was taken over by businessman Michael Glazer earlier this year. ♦