Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland shirt worn by teenage George Best expected to go for more than £5,000 at auction

By Dick Barton

A number seven Northern Ireland shirt worn by a teenage George Best at Windsor Park more than half a century ago is expected to fetch at least £5,000 at an auction next month.

The green short-sleeved jersey was donned by 18-year-old Best when he played for Northern Ireland in a World Cup qualifier against Switzerland on October 14, 1964.

The home side won the match 1-0 thanks to a Johnny Crossan penalty - which was awarded after Best appeared to have been fouled, although Belfast Telegraph reporter Malcolm Brodie disagreed with the decision and maintained that Best had actually tripped as he was going through on goal.

Shortly after the match, Best gave the shirt to Manchester United colleague, Noel Cantwell, in exchange for one of Cantwell's Republic of Ireland tops and Cantwell - capped on 36 occasions by the Republic - treasured the Best shirt for the rest of his life.

Now, 53 years later, Best's jersey from that match is up for sale and is expected to fetch between £5,000 and £8,000 at Graham Budd Auctions in London on Tuesday, May 16 - the week before what would have been Best's 71st birthday on May 22.

The year 1964, when Best played for Northern Ireland against Switzerland, was particularly memorable for the Belfast man because he had made his international debut just months earlier.

The Windsor encounter with Switzerland was his fourth appearance for Northern Ireland, for whom he would score a total of nine goals in 37 appearances between 1964 and 1977. Best and Cantwell died within months of each other in 2005. Cantwell passed away at 73 on September 8, while Best died 11 weeks later on November 25, at the age of 59 years.

George Best memorabilia has soared in value since his death.

At Bonhams in Chester on October 20, 2010, the 1968 European Cup Winners medal Best won with Manchester United sold for £156,000 while, at the same auction, Best's 2002 BBC Lifetime Achievement Award fetched £7,800.

Another Northern Ireland shirt worn by Best - for the match against Portugal in Lisbon on November 14,1973 - went for £6,000.

Brazilian legend Pele once described George Best as "the greatest player in the world", with Best hailing that praise as "the ultimate salute to my life".

Best's childhood home in the Cregagh area has become a place of pilgrimage for his many fans.

It was purchased in 2011 by Landmark East to preserve his legacy and is now available for visitors to rent and experience life in the house for George before he left to join Manchester United in 1963.

Meanwhile, Belfast City Airport was named after Best in 2006, and the airline Flybe also named a Dash 8 (Q400) plane The George Best in his memory.

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