Sunday, November 27, 2005

Football fans stage Best tributes

Football clubs across Britain staged their tributes on Saturday to the late George Best, who passed away aged 59.
Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend Best died in a London hospital on Friday after weeks of ill health.
The Premier League asked referees to conduct a minute's silence before all games this weekend, including United's trip to West Ham on Sunday.
But a minority of Liverpool and Leeds fans failed to observe the silence and the tribute had to be cut short.
At the City of Manchester Stadium in the game between Liverpool and Manchester City both sets of fans applauded as Best's name was read out.
But some fans of United's bitter rivals Liverpool disturbed the minute's silence, which did not last the full 60 seconds.
Referee Alan Wiley followed Premier League instruction in cutting the silence down to barely 20 seconds once it became obvious a minority of the visiting supporters were not going to respect it.
The conduct of some of their fans earned jeers from the City fans and their manager Rafael Benitez admitted it was disappointing.
"It is a pity," said Benitez. "It was only a few people and most of them did applaud but it is a pity, you can't say anything else."
City boss Stuart Pearce added: "I have no idea which group of supporters it was but the vast majority paid tribute to a legend of the game who gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of people and that is the important thing.
George Best's imprint on our national game will never fade Football Association chief executive Brian Barwick
"You have to look at the positives rather than dwell of the actions of a handful of people in a crowd of 47,000."
It was a similar scene at Millwall's New Den where a section of the Leeds fans also led to the tribute being cut short.
Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell said: "They are magnificent fans, but a few people let us down and we are all disappointed.
"It was the minority and it's always the minority that ruins society in this country I'm afraid and it's about time that we stood up to that."
Elsewhere crowds fell silent at 1500 GMT to honour one of the country's greatest ever players.
Celtic and Wolves, who Best supported as a boy, were two of the clubs who opted to have a minute of applause in tribute to the Northern Ireland legend.
A Celtic spokesperson said: "George Best was universally recognised as a player with a unique footballing talent and we feel it is appropriate to hold a minute's applause."
At Portsmouth, where Best was often seen due to his close friendship with chairman Milan Mandaric, the fans applauded and chanted his name throughout the minute's applause.
An emotional Mandaric had tears in his eyes at the tribute from the Pompey fans.
Fans gathered at United's Old Trafford stadium to pay their own respects, laying flowers, shirts and written tributes by the statue of Sir Matt Busby, the manager when Best helped the side to the European Cup in 1968.
People in Belfast continued to honour their home town hero with queues building up outside Belfast City Hall to sign books of condolence opened by the Lord Mayor.
Floral tributes also continued to pile up outside the Best family home in the Cregagh area of the city, where his father continues to live.
Story from BBC SPORT: 2005/11/26 18:58:42 GMT© BBC MMV


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