Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Pele: Belfast boy George Best was Brazilian

Pele with George Best
Pele with George Best
Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness with students from Fundacao Armando Alvares Penteado University in Brazil

The legendary Brazilian footballer Pele famously named George Best as the world's greatest ever player.

Now he has said the former Manchester United star's talent on the pitch was not that of a European, but a Brazilian.

The boy from east Belfast is taking centre stage in the football-mad South American country.

A month-long exhibition has been opened at the Morumbi Football Stadium in Sao Paulo.

The George Best Foundation's exhibition is a display of memorabilia, including medals, awards, shirts, letters and photographs.

The foundation is run by George's sister Barbara McNarry and her husband Norman.

It is sure to prove a hit with Brazilian fans of Best, including Pele, who said the Brazilian people still hold him in high esteem.

"You know, not long before he died we met in London. His father was there," said Pele.

He added that Best was "an unbelievable player".

"To me he never looked like a European. He was a Latin player – a Brazilian player," he said.

Best was once quoted as saying: "Pele called me the greatest footballer in the world. That is the ultimate salute to my life."

Northern Ireland's First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness opened the exhibition during their five-day trip to Brazil.

Mr Robinson said it was a privilege to open the showcase.

"One of our most charismatic sports personalities ever was the legendary George Best who thrilled soccer fans all over the world," he said.

Mr McGuinness added: "There is no better place to start our relationship with the Brazilian people than through our shared passion for football.

"The great Brazilian footballer Pele said 'George was the greatest footballer in the world'.

"It's a great honour to bring the George Best exhibition to an audience that holds him in such high esteem and to have this opportunity to support George's family's aims through the George Best Foundation."

The George Best Foundation was set up by George's family after his death in 2008. It promotes and encourages a healthier lifestyle among young people and supports working with young people affected by alcohol and drug problems, as well as funding research into illness associated with alcohol misuse.

Meanwhile, a lost script about the life of Best by writer Jack Rosenthal will have its world premiere in a pub theatre in Manchester almost 30 years after it was written.

Rosenthal penned The Best for a film in 1985, but the movie never got made.

The script has been rediscovered in Rosenthal's archive and put on stage at the 30-seat Lass O'Gowrie pub from Tuesday night until Sunday. Dancing Shoes, a musical based on Best's life, opened in Belfast in 2010.

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