Tonight has marked the opening of a new musical about George Best at the Grand Opera House by Marie Jones. Call me cynical, but given Jones last attempt at writing a football related play, I think i’ll give this one a swerve.
Of the many ways people have paid tribute to George Best during his life, and in the (almost) five years since his death, few are as visually striking as a mural.
For a city famous for it’s murals, it’s unsurprising that Best’s home city has various tributes to him.
The first photo was taken in April 2007 of Best on a wall alongside other Northern Ireland legends, and the mural is still there. It is painted onto a wall at the entrance to a bridge where supporters can walk out of Windsor Park onto the Lisburn Road.
The actual bridge itself has a painted tribute to Gerry Armstrong’s goal against Spain in 1982 but has sadly fell into a state of disrepair.
Interestingly, the image of David Healy on the wall wasn’t painted on until late 2006, with the square left blank, laying down a challenge to the current Northern Ireland team to become legends in their own right.
If the mural looks familiar, it’s because it was one of the iconic images of the media coverage of Best’s death, as it became an unofficial shrine for football fans in Northern Ireland to pay tribute to him, especially fans of Linfield and Portadown, who took advantage of their sides meeting the following day to leave their tributes before and after the game.
The second image was taken in January 2007 and is located in Blythe Street, Sandy Row, not far from Belfast City Centre and is still there today.
The final image is from the Woodstock Road in East Belfast, not far from the Cregagh Road, where Best grew up.
The mural has an interesting history as it was originally planned to be a collage of footballing heroes of East Belfast, with Best the centrepiece in the middle.
In the original piece, there were two players to the left of Best, and two to his right.
From memory, the legends I think were Danny Blanchflower, Sammy McIlroy, David McCreery and Derek Dougan.
Derek Dougan’s was a keen advoacate of an All-Ireland football team, something which isn’t really going to go down well in East Belfast, where he only gained a meagre 1.4% of the vote when he stood there in the 1997 General Election.
There were many times when his image on the wall would be paintbombed.
As a result, when George Best died in 2005, it was decided to remove the other legends permantly, replacing them with ‘1946’ and ‘2005’ (The years of Best’s birth and death) and turn it into a George Best tribute mural.
The mural is still there, although some of the paint has now peeled off. Hopefully, that will be remedied soon.
Another mural in East Belfast is a painting in a bridge in Victoria Park with a red number 7 shit with ‘Best’ on the back (even though he played in the era before names were on shirts) and the years 1946 and 2005 to signify his birth and death.
Unsurprisingly, Best is honoured in his local Cregagh Estate with a mural. Apologies for the poor picture quality, as building work meant it was hard to get into a good position to take a photograph.
Meanwhile, there is a piece of graffiti not far from Burren Way, the street where he grew up which simply sayd “G.Best – Legend”
Sometimes, you only need three words to say a lot.