The passing of one of the North’s most famous celebrities, soccer legend George Best, has led to a wave of tributes for a man some consider to have been Ireland’s greatest sportsman.
Best died on Friday after a long illness arising from his life-long battle with alcoholism.
Speaking in Hungary, Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern described the player as “one of my great sporting heroes” and “a man of great personal charisma”.
He added: “Not only was he one of the finest footballers this island has ever produced, but he also one of the best players the world has ever seen.
“In the days ahead people will struggle with words to try to describe his talent. In this regard George should be remembered as the very best at what he did.”
President McAleese paid tribute to “a wonderfully gifted sportsman whose skills on the football field dazzled a generation of soccer fans”.
He would be remembered “as one of the world’s finest football talents,” she said.
DUP leader Ian Paisley prayed for comfort for the player’s family, and said Best would probably never be bettered as a footballer. He was “unique in his football skills, a real magician on the football field, bringing delight to the multitudes of his fans”.
Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness said Best “brought immense pleasure to millions of people around the world”.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan described Mr Best as a “flawed genius”.
Ulster Unionist Assembly member Michael McGimpsey said, “George was a sporting hero and inspiration for a generation, not just in Northern Ireland but across the world. He gave people a reason to be proud of Northern Ireland.
“George is a positive part of our past that we can look to when shaping our uncertain future. He symbolised the potential that this great province has yet to fulfil.”