Best and The Beautiful Game
George Best, 22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005
Sometimes it feels slightly bizarre to live in the only country on the entire planet whose menfolk don't live and die by their allegiance to a football club, like living life in a parallel universe, one that worships different gods as part of a very different religion. It's definitely worth reading Nick Hornby's autobiographical Fever Pitch about the author's undying love for Arsenal F.C. to get an idea of how intrinsically essential the game is to understanding British culture. It's not that I care so much about The Beautiful Game itself, back in my day, it was a boys-only affair. I went to an all-girls' school and played vicious games of netball (a sort of basketball) and hockey (on a field) during the winter months. Added to the fact that my local team, Northampton Town, (nicknamed The Cobblers), were notorious for two reasons. The first was for going from the 4th to the 1st division and back down to the 4th in consecutive seasons. The second was for being beaten by Manchester United 8-2 in an early round of the F.A. Cup. This happened 40 years ago in 1970, but people still remember. Mostly because 6 of the goals were scored by George Best. Before David Beckham, there was George. A devastatingly handsome lady's man from Northern Ireland with a drinking problem as big as his immense talent for playing football.
Angie Best's Autobiography, 2001
He even had his own "Posh", his wife, Angie who now lives and works in California as a fitness guru. Their son Callum, a model and reality-TV celebrity, follows in his father's footsteps as a glamorous playboy having dated Lyndsey Lohan, Kate Moss and Lizzy Jagger, amongst others.
When George died in 2005, 100,000 people lined the streets of Belfast, (a city with a population of 260,000), for the funeral. Shorty afterwards the city's second airport, Belfast City Airport, was re-named George Best Belfast City Airport.
Crowds at George Best's Funeral, 2005
Once every four years I get into the spirit of the game and follow England's progress through The World Cup. I'll be watching tomorrow along with 2 billion other people as my team plays The USA!