October 7th, 2011
'BEST' memories retold in 'labour of love' book
He may have been a sporting icon loved by millions around the globe, but yesterday his tearful sister remembered George Best as a much-missed member of her still-grieving family.
Barbara McNarry paid her moving tribute to the Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend at the launch of a new book in Belfast yesterday.
George Best Will Not Be Playing Today has been compiled using previously unpublished tributes from the many books of condolence opened after his death in 2005, as well as messages of support sent to the Best family by leading international figures.
The book’s title was chosen to sum up the unprecedented impact the mercurial footballer had on the game — taken from a poster outside a football stadium warning match-goers that the man they had most likely come to see was not on the team sheet.
Speaking at yesterday’s launch in the banqueting suite of the City Hall, Barbara fought back tears as she described the book, which has taken years to complete, as a “labour of love”.
“About 20 books have been written about George but this to me is the definitive tribute,” she said.
“The messages are, and always will be, a great source of comfort to the Best family,” added Barbara.
Published by the charitable George Best Foundation and the Ulster Historical Foundation, the full-colour, 176-page story of an Ulster-born genius includes personal tributes from many prominent figures in the world of sport, politics, television, religion and even royalty.
All proceeds from the sale of the book are going to the George Best Foundation which was set up to promote a healthier lifestyle among young people.
The foundation also funds work with young people dealing with drug or alcohol problems and supports other related projects.
To date it has invested more than £100,000 in medical research and around £175,000 in sports-based youth initiatives both at home and abroad.
Jonathan Hamill of the Ulster Historical Foundation said one of the messages taken from the Belfast books of condolence reads: “You played for the Devils now you’re playing for the Angels” — describing such a move as “one contentious transfer”.
Along with fellow UHF member Mark Campbell, Jonathan got the idea for the book having watching the thousands who flocked to Belfast’s city hall to pen their own personal tribute.
Although their initial plan in early 2006 came too soon for the recently bereaved Best family, a second approach two years later was warmly welcomed.
It then took more than two years of hard work by all involved to scan over sixty books of condolence, including those opened in Manchester at Old Trafford, before the most poignant were selected for publication.
George Best Will Not Be Playing Today is available from major booksellers as well as the IFA HQ in Belfast, the Manchester United and Linfield Megastores and online at Best-tributes.com, priced £24.95.