Epithaphs to Manchester United legend George Best from Ferguson to Pele
The new book, George Best Will Not Be Playing Today, features a collection of tributes paid to the legend after his death. Packed between the covers are hundreds of personal tributes.
“On Saturday afternoon, prisoners — including Nelson Mandela — were allowed to play soccer. Many were young men who, as well as dreaming of a free South Africa, also had their sporting heroes in the old English First Division. Among the heroes who kept their spirits high was the young Belfast lad, George Best. Stories of his wizardy on the field — and his zest for life off it — filled the corridors of Robben Island prison.
“Alas, his career was much too short and his star faded all too quickly.
“Like the Prodigal Son, George found his way home and we remember with gratitude, and great warmth — a sporting genius and loveable rogue — for brightening up our darkest hours.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“... a great player who was my idol, George Best, without a doubt one of the best football-artists we have ever had.
“The great football critics said that because of his technical skills he didn’t seem like a European athlete but rather like a Brazilian athlete who danced the samba with the ball at his feet.
“George Best until today is a footballer without comparison and his technical skills will never be forgotten.”
“... he was unbelievable, unplayable and uncatchable.
“He was quick and elusive; he had good feet and had what was essential to a great player, balance and courage. It was his courage that most impressed me.
“He set down the template for greatness through his courage and any budding young star would be advised to follow that example.”
Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United manager
“I quickly came to realise how much affection George attracted from all around the world. I attended meetings giving lectures on liver disease, but no one seemed to be a bit interested in what I had to say.
“All around the world, in South Africa, Australia and the Middle East it was always: ‘How’s George?’
“It is said that doctors shouldn’t get too close to their patients. It’s not that easy when that person is George Best.”
Professor Roger Williams, George’s medical consultant
“George Best was a marvel with the ball and without the ball.
“A dream footballer who was confident in ability with supreme control at pace, and brave in the tackle when needed.
“He scored goals which were unique and he used to take some big hits from defenders who had no other way of stopping him.
“Anyone that witnessed what he could do on the pitch wished they could do the same. He enriched the lives of anyone that saw him play.”
Sir Bobby Charlton, former Man United/England footballer
“His ability was an inspiration to everyone who loves football. He was known around the world for his skill and flair.”
Sven Goran Eriksson, Leicester City manager
“I have always said that he didn’t touch me at all. The reason the ref didn’t give the goal was because if my foot was coming up to kick the ball, I could have broken my leg on his foot!
“George was one of the most truly talented and gifted players that I have ever had the privilege to play against in the whole of my footballing career. He was a smashing bloke.”
Gordon Banks, former England goalkeeper, on ‘that’ goal against England during Home Internationals in 1971
“George Best will pass into folklore as mercurial, as magical, as someone who lived his dream and as someone who made our dreams come true.
“What mere mortal could do what he did on a pitch?
“In a country that often couldn’t rise above politics and religion, George Best did more than most to bring us together as a people, to make us realise that there is more to unite us than to divide us.”
Eamonn Holmes, TV presenter
“George Best was unquestionably the most complete player I ever saw. A talent beyond compare.
“He possessed all the technical attributes, was blessed with good looks, charisma, and an hypnotic appeal.
“He was the first of the superstars of football.”
Pat Jennings, former Tottenham Hotspur and Northern Ireland footballer
“For me, George was one of those special people whose talent and love of life made a lasting impression on a whole generation.
“A Belfast Boy, a footballer by profession, a player both on and off the field, he was a hero of our times.
“A legend, he will never be forgotten.”
Eddie Irvine, Formula 1 racing driver
”Who says they don’t let (red) devils into Heaven.”
“Many have worn it before, many have worn it since, but there will only be one magnificent 7. The ‘Best’ there’s ever been.”
The Abram family.
“The best reason for believing in an afterlife is the chance of a kick around with George.”
“A genius footballer sadly missed. Pele was right, you were the Best.”
“God’s made the greatest signing ever for the Heaven Eleven. RIP George.”
“The master taught me football lessons on the pitch. More importantly, he has taught me the perils of the high life. And I needed it! Thanks George for literally extending my life.”
“Although I was never privileged enough to see you play, my dad was and he has told me that no-one could touch you.
“The clips that survive are the image of a genius that will last for generation after generation. You had a truly special talent.
“I have been lucky enough to see the likes of Keane, Cantona and Schmeichel play in the red shirt, and these are giants that walk in the footsteps carved by your generation.
“Long live George, your talent will never be forgotten.”
- Alex, Trembaith
“Football’s Van Gogh. Thanks for the ‘Best’ memories.”
“The man who taught women about football.”
“To the Belfast Boy who never grew up, you were a godsend to Northern Ireland, you had the heart, the soul and most of all the touch of magic. God bless you George.”
“I witnessed Best at Windsor Park and wondered if Burns, Bach or Rembrandt, King Billy, St Patrick or Cuchulainn got reincarnated as a footballer.”
“You were a hero, you were a legend, you were a genius. You weren’t Brazilian, you were Northern Irish and you were ours. Thank you George.”
“You were the greatest and most talented player ever, you were the most beautiful man I have ever seen, you have always been my idol, you always will be.”
- Karen Beat, Essex
“George Best was an artist who didn’t just play, but danced with the football that was glued to his feet for as long as he wanted it there.
“Bless you George, you were magnificent, the ‘Best’ footballer I have ever seen, or likely ever to see.”
- Paul, Midlands
“You will always be The Best. Love from all your fans in Tasmania, Australia.”
George Best Will Not Be Playing Today has been published by the George Best Foundation and the Ulster Historical Foundation. It is available in most bookshops and online at Best-tributes.com, Booksireland.org.uk and Kitbag.com, price £24.95