Thousands farewell George Best - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Thousands farewell George Best

By Jodie Ginsberg 04/12/2005 05:44:46 AM Comments (0)

Tens of thousands turned out in Belfast on Saturday to bid farewell to George Best, Northern Ireland's local lad turned soccer legend who died last week after losing his battle with alcoholism.

Best, who was mentioned in the same breath as soccer greats Pele and Diego Maradona, died of multiple organ failure on November 25 after years of heavy drinking.

His sister, Barbara McNarry, paid tribute to "the beautiful boy of the beautiful game" during a funeral service at the province's Stormont parliament building.

Best's body was taken by hearse along the five kilometre journey from his family's modest Belfast home to Stormont's white-pillared grandeur.

Thousands lining the route in pouring rain applauded the slow moving funeral cortege, as Best's native town gave the former Manchester United winger the type of send-off normally reserved for royalty.

Some of soccer's greatest names, including Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson, attended the ceremony which was relayed on giant screens to around 30,000 people in the grounds of the Stormont estate that overlooks Belfast.

"Goodbye Georgie, the Elvis of soccer," read one banner held aloft in the crowd outside.

"George brought people together all over the world, and especially he brought people together in Northern Ireland," his sister told 300 friends, family and dignitaries at the service.

"Everybody loved him who came into contact with him," said Professor Roger Williams, the doctor who oversaw Best's liver transplant in 2002 and treated him until his death.

"I think we made him too well with the transplant", Williams told the service.

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