Monday, November 28, 2005

"George, where did it all go wrong?"

When I was introduced to soccer in the late 1960s, there were only two names a Boston kid from the projects needed to know: Pele and George Best.

Pele was God's gift to professional athleticism and George Best was . . .

. . . The Fifth Beatle, The Joe Namath of Soccer, a fashion designer, a jet-setter. he was an international icon of all that was fun!

Best was remarkably successful at a very young age, and he lived his life not to the fullest, but over-the-top. And so he has died young. Fifty-nine years old.

While I was living in London, Best was arrested for spousal abuse, sex with a minor, and checked-in to a rehab clinic. I lived in London only for a year! I don't know how often these things had happened previously, but I got the impression it was not the first time.

Dead at fifty-nine. Sad.

He didn't die from some tragic disease. He died from a curable disease. He didn't die in some tragic accident, he died at his own hand.

Georgie Best drank himself to death. He went from being the greatest footballer in England, having won all that he could win, to being a sad, bloated, violent, sickly, abusive bastard.

Best regularly told the story of how a room service waiter found him in bed with a stunning Miss Universe with thousands of pounds (dollars) in bills scattered around the room.

"George, where did it all go wrong?" the man reportedly remarked.

Thank you, Georgie, for all the entertainment! May you rest in peace.

Media pay tribute to George Best
By Ken Ferris

LONDON (Reuters) - British newspapers paid tribute to former Manchester United great George Best on Saturday as they offered their last respects to a footballing genius.

The Sun newspaper ran a front page headline saying: 'Biggest Funeral Since Di" as they claimed half a million people would line the streets of his home city of Belfast next Friday.

"The outpouring of grief will be the biggest since more than a million people lined the streets of London in 1997 for (the funeral of Princess) Diana," said the tabloid.

He will be buried alongside the grave of his mother Ann.

Most papers focused on his amazing skills on the pitch with The Guardian front page showing a picture of a dapper Best in 1966 and the headline "Life's game, as played by George Best."

"The way Best played football was certainly the stuff that dreams are made of... Tales of his deeds on the football pitch will endure as long as the game is played in these islands."

Best died on Friday in a London hospital of multiple organ failure aged 59 after a lifetime of heavy drinking.

The Daily Express devoted the whole of its back page to a picture framed in black of the long-haired Irishman with the simple dedication: "George Best 1946-2005."

Inside, under the headline "Simply the Best," the paper wrote: "We shall never see his like again, for he had everything. Bestie was as near the perfect player as football ever saw. He wasn't a bad bloke either."

On Saturday, there will be a minute's silence at English league matches as a mark of respect for the Northern Ireland winger and a book of condolence opened at Old Trafford.

Celtic fans will follow the continental tradition by applauding Best for 60 seconds before their match.


"Remember him today at 3pm" read the back page of the Daily Mirror over a picture of Best walking away in his distinctive red Manchester United shirt adorned with the famous number 7.

The tabloid paper quotes England captain and former United midfielder David Beckham saying: "As a Manchester United fan I always saw George Best as a football legend and it was a proud moment for me when I wore the same No7 shirt as him.

"He's one of the greatest players to have ever graced the game and a great person as well."

The Daily Telegraph obituary said: "George Best... was the outstanding British footballer of any generation; the mercurial... forward possessed a genius that bears comparison only with the trio of modern masters, Pele, Johann Cruyff and Diego Maradona."

To that list might be added Portugal's Eusebio, who was on the losing side against Best in the 1968 European Cup final. The Benfica forward said: "George Best was the best player in the world, not just England, and a good friend of mine."

The Times obituary remembered the, "Footballing genius who swapped the beautiful game for the playboy life," while the Daily Mail pleaded: "Do Not Mourn, Celebrate Him."

"To watch George Best play football was to fall in love with the game. This was his legacy: Beyond price," it added.

The Independent's front page headline read: "He Made Football Beautiful," while the paper's leading article summed up his colorful life on and off the pitch:

"...with his extravagance, his indulgence, his addictions, his gambling, his womanizing and his booze, George Best was an Icarus for our times."

Soccer great George Best dies at 59
Associated Press

LONDON (AP) - George Best, the dazzling soccer icon of the 1960s and 70s who reveled in a hard-drinking playboy lifestyle, died Friday after decades of alcohol abuse, hospital officials said. He was 59.

The former Manchester United and Northern Ireland star, who had a liver transplant three years ago because of heavy drinking, had been hospitalized since Oct. 1 because of a reaction to the medication he took to control his alcoholism.

"After a long and very valiant fight, Mr George Best died this afternoon in the intensive care unit at Cromwell Hospital," the hospital in London's west said in a statement.

Best's son, Calum, thanked his father's medical team, particularly Prof. Roger Williams and Dr Akeel Alisa.

"Not only have I lost my dad, but we've all lost a wonderful man," Calum Best said. "I'd just like to take the time to thank Professor Williams and Dr Akeel and everybody here at the Cromwell Hospital for doing everything they could do and to all the well-wishers and the fans ... the letters and the flowers and the e-mails, it all means so much to us."

Best's agent, Phil Hughes, said Best would be buried next to his mother, Ann, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Dec. 2.

Manchester United teammate Denis Law, who was at Best's bedside all night, said it was a blessing that Best's suffering came to an end.

"It's an extremely sad day for the Best family," Law said. "It was just a matter of time really. It was not if, it was when that things wouldn't go right.

"In the long run, after knowing him for a long time, it's the best thing that could have happened because he would have been slightly like a vegetable and he wouldn't have liked that. It's awful to say it sometimes but it was a blessing."

Law led the tributes to his former teammate while Prime Minister Tony Blair described him as "probably the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation" and England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said "his ability was an inspiration to everyone who loves football."

Best, who humiliated defenders but frustrated coaches during his wayward career, had been readmitted to intensive care last Friday with a lung infection. He was put on life support Saturday, and his condition deteriorated sharply.

A Manchester United fan lays flowers as a tribute to George Best outside Old Trafford on November 25, 2005 in Manchester, England. (Alex Livesey/Staff / Getty Images)

Best scored 180 goals in 465 appearances over 12 years for Manchester United and helped the Red Devils win the 1968 European Cup. He also played in the North American Soccer League, scoring 54 goals in 139 games for the Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and San Jose Earthquakes.

United announced it would open a book of condolence at Old Trafford, and the Premier League said there would be a minute's silence before each game over the weekend. Manchester United plays at West Ham on Sunday and players will wear black armbands.

Best was told never to drink again after his liver transplant in July 2002, but he went back to his old ways and was regularly seen at pubs and bars.

"Unfortunately there is no solution to alcohol, you can't make it go away," Best wrote in a recent update to his second autobiography "Blessed." "Drink is the only opponent I've been unable to beat."

Best, who was born on May 22, 1946, was only 17 when he began baffling defenders with his dribbling skills and thrilling fans by scoring spectacular goals for Manchester United.

Slightly built but with amazing balance and devastating speed, Best would run at defenders and leave them tackling thin air. Sometimes he would humiliate them further by going back to beat them again.

If Best had been born in England, rather than Belfast, he would have been an even bigger star.

He was the standout player for his home country and made 37 international appearances. But Northern Ireland had few other players capable of making an impact in the World Cup or European Championship, and Best never made an appearance in either competition.

Best starred in United's 5-1 win at Benfica's Stadium of Light in 1966, scoring twice in the first 12 minutes, and became known as "El Beatle." He was voted European Player of the Year after the club's Champions Cup triumph over the same Portuguese club at Wembley in 1968.

George Best of Manchester United in action against Fulham at Craven Cottage in London on August 8, 1971. (Staff / Getty Images)

Best retired when he was 27 in 1972 to concentrate on his business ventures, which included night clubs and clothing boutiques, only to come out of retirement three years later, considerably overweight.

Best slimmed down and went to the United States, where he played for the Los Angeles Aztecs. After agreeing to join Fulham in 1976, he walked out on the division two club. FIFA imposed a worldwide ban on Best because he had broken his contract, ruling out a move to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.

After the FIFA ban was lifted, Best returned to the United States and had a successful spell with the San Jose Earthquakes. He then moved to Scottish club Hibernian but was fired when he failed to show up for two games because of late night drinking binges.

In 1984, he served two months in jail for drunken driving. In 2004, he was banned from driving for 20 months after another conviction.

In March 2000, Best collapsed from serious liver damage. He was hospitalized with pneumonia in February 2001 and, two months later, had anti-alcohol pellets implanted in his stomach.

Best had a reputation as a wayward drinker and womanizer who couldn't be relied on to keep appointments either as a player, TV soccer analyst or after-dinner speaker.

His colorful private life was frequently splashed in the British press, and he seemed to enjoy the attention.

Best regularly told the story of how a room service waiter found him in bed with a stunning Miss Universe with thousands of pounds (dollars) in bills scattered around the room.

"George, where did it all go wrong?" the man reportedly remarked.

Best was linked to some of the world's most beautiful women. He dated Miss Worlds Marjorie Wallace and Mary Stavin, actresses Annette Andre and Sinead Cusack and singer Lindsay de Paul.

"They say I slept with seven Miss Worlds," he once said. "I didn't. It was only four. I didn't turn up for the other three."

But Best ran into trouble with the taxman, the law and also fellow drunks.

With his career as a player over, one of his lowest points came in January 1983 when Best was hit over the head with a beer glass in a London pub hours after he had appeared at the Bankruptcy Court for failing to pay back taxes.

Just before Christmas the following year, Best was jailed for three months for drunk driving, assaulting a policeman and jumping bail.

In 1990, Best appeared wildly drunk on a live TV show, uttering expletives and embarrassing the host. But, with his second wife, Alex Pursey, standing by him, he contained his drinking enough to make regular appearances on Sky TV's Saturday afternoon soccer program.

But Best's drinking caught up with him again when he was taken seriously ill and rushed to a hospital in west London. Chronic liver damage was diagnosed, and doctors told him that even one more glass of wine could kill him.

In the hospital for a month, Best promised his wife he wouldn't drink again. It was one more promise he couldn't keep.

In April 2004, Alex Best was granted a divorce after nine years of marriage on grounds of her husband's adultery. Calum was born from Best's four-year marriage to his first wife, Angie.

"I don't think that I ruined what you call talent at all," Best told Italian magazine L'Espresso. "I played for 12 years with Manchester United and I won everything. I couldn't haven't done much more.

"Maybe I could have played football at a certain level for a longer period, but I left for the United States, I stayed there for eight years and had a lot of fun there too. I did everything that I felt like doing. You know, my friend, mine was really a great life."

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are all one way or another like him, GB. We want it all and then find our way when we cannot get it. Pray that we only don't end up like GB. Please pray.