George Best - Football Legend
George Best (22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005) was a Northern Irish professional football player, best known for his years with Manchester United. He was a winger whose game combined pace, acceleration, balance, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to beat defenders. In 1968, his annus mirabilis, he won the European Cup with Manchester United, and was named the European Footballer of the Year. When fit, he was an automatic choice for the Northern Ireland team, but he was unable to lead them to the World Cup qualification, despite being capped 37 times and scoring nine goals.
In 1999, he was voted 11th at the IFFHS European Player of the Century election, and 16th in the World Player of the Century election. Pelé named him as one of the 125 best living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list and Best was named 19th, behind Gerd Müller, at the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll. In his native Northern Ireland, the admiration for him is summed up by the local saying: "Maradona good; Pelé better; George Best."
He was one of the first celebrity footballers, but his extravagant lifestyle led to problems with alcoholism which curtailed his playing career and eventually led to his death in November 2005 at the age of 59. His cause of death was multiple organ failure brought on by a kidney infection, a side-effect of the immuno-suppressive drugs he was required to take after a liver transplant. In 2007, GQ named him as one of the 50 most stylish men of the past 50 years.
Early Years and Family
George Best was the first child of Dickie Best (1920–2008) and Anne Best (née Withers) (1923–1978), and grew up in Cregagh, Belfast. Best had four sisters, Carol, Barbara, Julie and Grace, and a brother, Ian. Best's father Dickie died on 16 April 2008, in the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald, Northern Ireland. He had been admitted to hospital four weeks earlier. Best's mother Anne died from an alcoholism-related illness in 1978, aged 55.
In 1957, at the age of 11, the academically gifted Best passed the 11 plus and went to Grosvenor High School, but he soon played truant as the school specialised in rugby. Best then moved to Lisnasharragh Secondary School, reuniting him with friends from primary school and allowing him to focus on football.
He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. Of his nine international goals four were scored against Cyprus and one each against Albania, England, Scotland, Switzerland and Turkey.
On 15 May 1971, Best scored possibly the most famous "goal" of his career at Windsor Park in Belfast against England. As Gordon Banks, the English goalkeeper, released the ball in the air in order to kick the ball downfield, Best managed to kick the ball first, which sent the ball high over their heads and heading towards the open goal. Best outpaced Banks and headed the ball into the empty goal, but the goal was disallowed by referee Alistair Mackenzie.
Best continued to be selected for Northern Ireland throughout the 1970s, despite his fluctuating form and off pitch problems. There were still glimpses of his genius; in 1976, Northern Ireland were drawn against Holland in Rotterdam as one of their group qualifying matches for the 1978 FIFA World Cup. Holland – midway between successive World Cup final appearances – and Johan Cruyff were at their peak at the time. Five minutes into the game Best received the ball wide on the left. Instead of heading towards goal he turned directly infield, weaved his way past at least three Dutchmen and found his way to Cruyff who was wide right. Best took the ball to his opponent, dipped a shoulder twice and slipped it between Cruyff's feet – nutmegging arguably the best player in the world at that time. Best was considered briefly by manager Billy Bingham for the 1982 World Cup. However, at 36 and with his football skills dulled by age and drink, he was not selected in the Northern Ireland squad.
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