George Best will forever stand as a legend on the streets of Belfast. World famous and revolutionary with his attitude and standing in football and the pages of newspapers, his legacy in his hometown of Belfast is a tribute that will last a lifetime.
Even if your expertise isn’t in sport, chances are you know of George Best and his influence and unparalleled rise through football at a very young age, achieving legend status before the age of 26.
After his tragic death in 2005 following a long health battle, tributes poured in from all over the world and nearly 100,000 people lined the streets to bid a tearful farewell to the boy from Belfast.
More than 10 years later, the people of Belfast still remember him fondly, with lasting tributes and his mark left all over the city.
Supporting Future Sportspeople
In 2013, 50 years after Best’s debut match for Manchester United, Belfast Metropolitan College and the George Best Foundation launched the George Best Foundation Academy. The programme took on 60 budding footballers to coach them to greatness and to follow in the footsteps of their hero.
With professional training, dedicated study time and support in local and national leagues, the young talents were sponsored throughout to help them dedicate themselves to continue the George Best legacy.
As well as his posthumous support for the future footballers of Belfast, his memory has been preserved forever on the field where his love of the game spawned.
Earlier this year, Cregagh Green was awarded funding from the London Marathon Charitable Trust to help promote physical activity and community participation.
The relatively small green space sits in the centre of a housing estate in East Belfast and was the first kicking ground for the Belfast boy.
The green space will now be protected forever to prevent development so more people in the community can continue in the footsteps of George Best.
In 2006, less than a year after George Best’s death, his sister left her job in the civil service to set up the George Best Foundation.
The charity was established to help provide support for those living with alcoholism-related issues, liver disease research and to fund youth football initiatives.
Although the foundation ceased to operate after eight years of funding countless footballing and health-related projects, their last act of charity left a sizeable sum of money to The Mary Peters Trust to continue the work with aspiring sports stars.
The donation resulted in what is now the Irish Football Association’s George Best Community Cup – a major highlight on the disability football calendar.
Honoured by Name
People visit Belfast from all over the world for its history and culture, and since 2006, they’ve been greeted by their most famous football export at the George Best Airport.
Also housed in the airport is one of only 68 George Best Faberge eggs. Created by the great-granddaughter of Russian Imperial Jeweller Peter Carl Faberge. All the profits from the 68 eggs were donated to the George Best Foundation.
Sticking to the city airport, FlyBe name one of their aircrafts The George Best, and it later flew the Best family to Manchester for a memorial service.
He was also honoured on a limited edition £5 note, issued by Ulster Bank and only one million in number, the note commemorated his life and sold out in days.
After being hailed as a footballing genius by some of the game’s greats, it’s clear George Best has left his mark in history.
The people of Belfast are often proud to be the home of such a legend, and his cheeky attitude, dazzling skills and heart-warming charisma is an inspiration to not only aspiring footballers but to the general population of the city.
He’s an example of what could be for anyone with a dream. Whether you’re from a less privileged part of town, have migrated from overseas or are simply a Belfast-dweller, the story of George Best’s rise and his impact on the city is a story that is told time and time again.
The story will now be told at The George Best Hotel, another lasting tribute to the great man. With anecdotes, memorabilia and previously unheard stories from the people that knew him best and his fans.