George Best's birthday marked with bid to raise £40k for Windsor statue
Fans of Belfast football legend George Best are marking what would have been his 72nd birthday today by kicking off a new campaign to bring him 'home' to Windsor Park, the scene of his greatest triumphs in a green jersey.
The creators of a life-size statue of the Northern Ireland genius have picked today to launch their fund-raising appeal to finish off their tribute to their hero who died at the age of 59 in November 2005.
Sculptor Tony Currie has already been on target with his goal of getting Belfast City Council to agree to erect the statue beside the entrance to Windsor Park at the new Olympia leisure complex.
The council has spent more than £21m regenerating the centre and its surrounding area, including a boulevard leading from Boucher Road to the new facilities and to Windsor Park.
Tony, from the Lecale Bronze project, said: "Football fans locally, nationally and internationally will be able to visit the area and access the statue which will be sited at ground level."
Tony, who's a former Irish boxing champion, added that his crowd-funding appeal needed to raise £40,000 to cast the clay sculpture in bronze.
Tony continued: "I was moved to make the sculpture because I was a huge fan of George.
"It's been a long journey for everyone involved and it's been particularly pleasing to have gained the support of the Best family, Belfast City Council and of the Irish Football Association.
"Everyone who has seen the sculpture or images of it agree that it captures the likeness and movement of George as he dribbles the ball in that perfectly balanced and skilful way for which he was famous."
From the outset of the initiative several years ago, the idea has been championed by Best fan Robert Kennedy, who visits the Cregagh footballer's grave every week and who has a tattoo of the Manchester United legend on his back.
Mr Kennedy said he was campaigning for the statue to honour a pledge he made to George's late father, Dickie, who told him before his death that he wanted a lasting memorial to his son to be built.
It's hoped the statue will be completed by late September or early October and Tony said that if the organisers exceeded their targets, any surplus money would go to the Harry Gregg Foundation.
To contribute to The George Best Memorial Sculpture Fund, go to https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-george-best-memorial-sculpture-fund