Belfast Telegraph

Farewell a troubled genial sporting hero

For over a week, some of the leading figures from the world of snooker as well as civic, community and political representatives have been rightly paying tribute to Alex Higgins.

Today's thanksgiving service in Belfast's St Anne's Cathedral, where his parents were married, underlines that his passing also marks a milestone in the history of the city and its people.

Just like George Best, the 'Hurricane' was a world leader in his chosen sport and he will be remembered as not only a colourful and controversial character but also in his prime as one of the best, if not the best, player in the history of snooker.

His world championships and other titles have been well-chronicled, as have his frailties. He was a sporting hero, but as a human being he lost his way, and in his last years he was literally a shadow of his former self.

There was something immensely sad about this star of the limelight who passed on from this world, destitute and alone.

Life is sometimes neither easy nor fair, especially for those who simply cannot cope with fame or fortune, just like Alex Higgins. His early success at such a tender age was both his achievement and his undoing.

He was rarely out of the headlines during his better days, and since his death many of the comments about Alex Higgins have been complimentary, while others have been judgmental.

They represent the two sides of a vastly talented but complex character - the man who had the sporting world at his feet but somehow managed to throw it all away. The star who helped to make snooker a modern phenomenon, spent his last days alone in the shadows .

Whatever his merits or failures, he was shaped by his early experience in the city of his birth, and today's funeral and thanksgiving service in Belfast Cathedral underline the special place which Alex Higgins enjoyed within the community at large.

He was often a difficult man to deal with but at his peak he brought sporting joy and excitement to his native land which was undergoing some of the worst troubles and traumas imaginable.

Alex Higgins has dominated the local news since his death on Saturday week ago, and his send-off today is indeed appropriate for a man with such a unique talent.

In time he will be remembered in a fitting and more balanced kind of way, but that consideration will be for another day.

Today marks the last chapter of a remarkable story of success and also of failure, but in the last analysis it also marks a deep personal loss to his family and friends.

They, above all, are in our thoughts today. The Hurricane is now stilled, but the memories will always linger on.

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