It has been a sad few days in British sport, which has lost arguably the most talented football player these islands have produced in George Best. He died, as many people will know, a few years after having a liver transplant necessitated by a long history of alcohol abuse. For those unfamiliar with his story, he was born in Belfast and played at Manchester United in one of its most successful periods in the mid- to late 60s but left top-class football aged only 27.
I am glad that in most of the coverage about him, the focus has been on the football rather than the messy personal life. And what a fantastic player he was! If even Brazilian maestro Pele called him the greatest player in the world, then who are we to demur? I was born in the year – 1966 – that Best gave what aficionados and team-mates reckon was Best’s finest display, demolishing Portugese side Benfica with two goals, the second involving a mazy run past several defenders before sticking the ball into the back of the net.
Best was an alcoholic, which some people regard as a disease that one is born with rather than a condition over which people, possessed of free will, have control. Interestingly, I get the impression, by reading some of Best’s own remarks, that he was a man in control of his own destiny and did not, as far as I am aware, choose to play the victim card. There is no doubt, though, that some people have found it hard to conquer the bottle, although others, such as Tottenham soccer ace Jimmy Greaves, managed to give up on booze and preserve their health and live into a ripe old age.
Anyway, I expect DVDs of Best’s football brilliance to be hot sellers this Christmas. May he rest in peace.