A book published earlier today is the ultimate tribute to the genius of George Best...and it includes hundreds of individual tributes and photographs that have never been made public before.
GEORGE BEST Will Not Be Playing Today
has been published by the George Best Foundation and the Ulster Historical Foundation.
It was launched in Belfast City Hall at a reception hosted by the High Sheriff, Dr Ian Adamson OBE.
The book has a foreward from the great Pele and tributes by other star names from the world of football, from Sir Bobby Charlton and Sir Alex Ferguson to Harry Gregg and Pat Jennings.
Other sports stars such as Rory McIlroy and Eddie Irvine have words of praise... as do Sir Michael Parkinson, South Africa's Bishop Desmond Tutu and Professor Roger Williams (George's medical consultant).
But away from famous names, the book is packed with tributes from the fans... from scrawled one-line messages to long letters, drawings and poems... from young children to older people who had been watching football all their lives.
On the front cover is a simple message from a child... "good bye Mr george! Chloe"
Dr Adams told guests at the reception: "It is an honour to host this launch of what is a truly superb tribute to one of Belfast's most famous sons. George Best's footballing brilliance has left us with many unforgettable memories, such as when he beat Scotland virtually on his own.
"Sadly, we also remember George's death and the grief in Belfast and far beyond as many thousands of people watched his funeral. The excellent work by the foundation that bears his name is a fitting legacy for George - and this excellent new book is an equally fitting tribute."
The full-colour book tells the Best story in detail and is packed with photographs of him in action and with his many fellow footballers and friends. The images never published include the first known photo of George, taken on 17 September 1946 when he was just four months.
The idea for the book came from Ulster Historical Foundation staff members Mark Campbell and Jonathan Hamill.
They went to Belfast City Hall within hours of George's death on 25 November 2005 to sign a book of condolence and were amazed at just how many people had also come to sign.
More than 60 books of condolence were filled at various other centres at home and further afield... at all council offices in Northern Ireland; at football club grounds throughout Ireland; at supermarkets; and at Old Trafford, where George produced some of his finest performances.
Tributes from the books of condolence and messages to George's late father and other family members were collated and scanned by Mark and Jonathan... part of a labour of love that wasn't completed until the book went to the printer in July this year.
George was thrilled that Pele
called him the greatest footballer in the world. In his book tribute, the Brazilian superstar refers to "a footballer without comparison and his technical skills will never be forgotten".
In a letter to Barbara McNarry, Bishop Desmond Tutu
recalls that, during the apartheid era in South Africa, Robben Island prisoners has their favourite teams in the old English First Division.
He writes: "Amongst the heroes that kept their spirits high was the young Belfast lad, George Best. Stories of his wizardry on the field - and his zest for life off it - filled the corridors of Robben Island prison."
Barbara McNarry, George's sister and secretary of the George Best Foundation, said: "I am delighted that so many famous people have paid tribute, but particularly touched that so many fans expressed their grief and how they missed George. Without the fans, the book would never have happened.
"About 20 books have been written about George, but to me this is the definitive tribute. The messages are, and always will be, a great source of comfort to the Best family."
Fintan Mullan, Executive Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation, said: "Barbara McNarry and the George Best Foundation were totally devoted to the project and, without their support, the book could not have been published.
"We could not be happier with the finished product. The book is a fitting and poignant tribute to George and demonstrates clearly the devotion and faithfulness of the fans, and the affection in which he was held, in the local community and across the wider world."