Belfast Telegraph

Biting Back: George Best remembered in sand sculpture alongside Pele, Ronaldo and Maradona

By Jim Gracey

If you're short of a conversation starter, try sauntering along one of Spain's busiest seafronts decked out in a 1971 retro Northern Ireland shirt with Best 11 on the back. See how far you get.

Spanish, English, Irish, Scottish, German and Dutch stop to talk and you don't have to be multi-lingual. "The greatest ever... the world's best... better than Pele... better than Messi and Ronaldo... we'll never see his like again." Nothing lost in translation there.

And as if to reinforce the point, on Los Boliches beach a sand sculptor is captivating holidaymakers with a Mount Rushmore giant Presidential heads-style tribute to the greats of the World Cup... and alongside Pele, the two Ronaldos, Zidane, Cruyff and Maradona, he has added, on the wing, the one who spent the most time on Spanish beaches but sadly never graced a World Cup... our own George Best.

The wonderful thing about George in life was not just his spellbinding football. He was also gifted with that remarkable knack of being instantly liked, loved and forgiven. No-one ever stayed angry with him for long.

What an epitaph in today's disposable, here today, gone tomorrow world, that the global fondness for our greatest football son endures.

Cruyff, Pele, Messi, Ronaldo and the rest are indeed gifts from the football gods.

But 40 years after all their heydays, is there a player alive today whose replica shirt will spark such recognition, reverence and reminiscence?

George's last wish was to be remembered for his football. Nearly nine years after he was too soon taken from us, he can continue to rest in peace on that score.

Belfast Telegraph


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