Today, George Best remains a footballing icon, inspiring future stars to kick-start their dreams.
One of Belfast’s very own, the legendary star has certainly left a lasting legacy around the world.
But most importantly, the timeless star truly made his mark on the place that he called home.
Leaving Belfast Behind
After spotting a young George in action, Manchester United scout Bob Bishop sent a telegram to manager Matt Busby simply reading: “I think I’ve found you a genius”.
Then a teenager, the soon to be superstar, found himself signed up by chief scout Joe Armstrong in 1961 however his attachment to Belfast almost stood in the way.
Overwhelmed with homesickness in Manchester, George fled back to Belfast less than 24 hours after making it to the Old Trafford.
It took a phone call between George’s father Dickie and Matt Busby to get the budding star back to Old Trafford and ready to take the world by storm.
Often remembered as the ‘Fifth Beatle’, George Best’s time at Manchester United and the Swinging Sixties was a fusion of talent, style and excitement.
In 1964 George made his Northern Ireland debut, proud to don the Northern Irish shirt.
Remembering George Best
Thousands gathered in 2005 to pay tribute to George Best in Belfast. Addressing the congregation at the Stormont Great Hall ceremony, Best’s sister said:
“Today, George the long road has brought you home”.
The heart-breaking occasion was attended by Irish sporting heroes while fans left heartfelt sentiments including shirts and scarves, bouquets and handwritten messages.
The public gestures of grief and commemoration were comparable to the large-scale public mourning of Princess Diana.
Following the footballer’s passing, Don Fardon re-released his single “Belfast Boy” in 2006.
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy
Georgie, Georgie, they call you the Belfast Boy Georgie, Georgie, keep your feet on the ground
Georgie, Georgie, when you listen to the sound
Georgie, Georgie, put a light on your name.
Manchester band The Electric Stars also released a new version of Fardon’s 1970 hit in memory of George for his 68th birthday.
The proceeds from the single went to charities including the George Best Foundation.
A Legacy Living On
Best fans continue to flock to Belfast to see George Best murals and landmarks around the city.
The Cregagh Estate where George grew up is a favourite for fans. Everyday spots including Best’s local ice cream parlour are also frequented by those visiting the city.
The George Best Foundation was founded in in 2006 after Best’s sister Barbara and her husband Norman felt the true enormity of support for George.
Over the period of a successful and inspiring eight years, the foundation educated young sporting people on healthier lifestyles, diets and nutrition.
In 2015 it was announced that the work of the George Best Foundation would come to an end, yet the legacy of the charity would continue.
Fans were reassured that the Belfast star’s legacy would live on through the IFA’s George Best Community Cup, funded by The Mary Peters Trust.
Dame Mary Peters CH, DBE shared:
“George Best was undoubtedly one of the greatest home-grown sporting talents from Northern Ireland, with a truly exceptional gift that arguably remains unmatched.”
“By sponsoring the IFA’s George Best Community Cup, The Mary Peters Trust will enable disabled footballers to compete in and enjoy the sport they love.”
And of course, if you travel to Belfast you’re likely to pass through the airport named after the man himself. In May 2006, the Belfast City Airport was renamed George Best Belfast City Airport.
One of the most memorable tributes to George, the Ulster Bank issued one million commemorative ?5 notes featuring the Northern Irish legend.
We couldn’t be more excited to open the doors to The George Best Hotel, offering locals and fans around the world a truly unique experience.
We’re dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen.?