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Quite Simply The Best
11 November 2005, 9:45 am
Today and for some time to come we should mourn the passing of George Best, one of the greatest talents that ever pulled on a pair of football boots.

George Best is probably the only sports person not associated with rugby, who could overshadow the goings on in Lansdowne Road, Twickenham, Murrayfield, the Millennium Stadium or Stade de France this day.

And while there may be some debate whether he was the best ever soccer player in the world or had to vie with Pele and Di Stefano for that honour, he was without question the greatest Irish footballer of his generation, the previous one and likely the next.

And for that reason it would not be inappropriate if there were a minute s silence ahead of the game in Lansdowne Road today. There will not be one player and very few in the stands or watching on television who will not have been touched by the genius that was Best.

For this writer, George Best brightened the early years of a Co Kildare boarding school. He made the week bearable by his visits on a Saturday courtesy of the rickety television in the electric-bar heated tearoom and in 1968 he helped decide the career path of myself and several classmates. We all wanted to be George Best. And we set about it without the aid of the dreaded schoolbooks. What Billy Keane was doing in Listowel (Irish Independent Saturday), a must read piece) we were doing in Kildare.

Growing the hair proved the easiest part and while we were also easily inclined to adopt the excesses he was famed for, - albeit without the same degree of success he enjoyed with the girls - the basic ingredient unfortunately was way beyond our remit.

You see, when it came to the football field, George Best had it all. And mind you off it, he wasn't doing too bad either !

Good in the air, unbelievable ball control, lightning speed, and vision that is only found in the truly great. He was audacious without being arrogant. Remember that day in Widsor Park, when he nicked the ball off Gordon Banks and headed into the net ?

He was also a worker, a ferocious tackler and not a player prone to taking dives to win frees or gain advantage.

If Best felt wronged by an opponent his retribution was to seek out that opponent, and with ball at feet, make a muppet of him.

He wasn't petulant, didn t indulge in the silly play-acting that is so common in the game today.

He didn't go in for the nonsensical carry-on that nowadays strikers engage in when they score. For George it was just the arm raised, almost shyly and that marvellous grin. Class.

He was an honest player.

And for those of you who were not fortunate enough to see him play, yes he was head and shoulders above the Beckhams, Lampards, Ronaldos, anyone you care to mention.

Unlike Billy Keane, I never got to meet George Best. I bitterly regret that now. Like Billy and thousands more I grieve for him as if I had known him personally. We grew up with him. And long after we realised that getting to be George Best just wasn t going to happen for us, we still lived the dream. And just as importantly, we kinda believed it was all right with him to do so.

Simply the Best ? Absolutely.

Better than all the rest ? For me, without question.

We invoke the words of W.B. Yeats, to send a true legend on to his resting place.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow .

Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam

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