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Sunday, 11 August, 2002, 00:50 GMT 01:50 UK
George Best hits back at critics
George Best appearing on the Parkinson chat show
Best has pledged never to drink again
Former football star George Best has spoken out against critics who said he did not deserve his liver transplant because of his alcoholism.

The ex-Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend, who underwent the operation 12 days ago, told the Mail on Sunday he knew he would never drink again.

Best, 56, said he haemorrhaged so badly during surgery that he nearly died and found out he would not have lasted three months without surgery.


I didn't decide one day that I would drink myself to death. It is as a result of alcoholism

George Best
Although he received thousands of messages of support from well-wishers, some commentators questioned whether he should have been given the transplant.

But Best, who is still recovering in hospital, responded: "I would never say to anybody you don't deserve to live, no matter who they are.

"As for calling this self-inflicted, I didn't decide one day that I would drink myself to death. It is as a result of alcoholism."

He added: "I know myself I will never drink again. The only reason I would is because I want to kill myself or I want to go through this again - and I don't want either, so there's no reason to drink."

Children

Best said he was grateful to the anonymous donor of the organ, adding that he felt guilty that someone else had to die for him to survive.

And he said he now hoped to have children with wife Alex, 29, as soon as he was feeling better - which he had been told was in about three months.

But he said it was "extremely frightening" to find out how close to death he had come and the experience had forced him to confront his own mortality.

Best underwent 10 hours of major surgery and needed 40 pints of blood during the operation on 30 July at the Cromwell Hospital in west London.

After spending several days in intensive care, Best was moved to a specialist liver ward.

He had been waiting about seven to eight months for a suitable liver, after causing irreparable damage to his health from years of heavy drinking.

Support

Since news broke of the operation Best has received many letters of support and thousands of e-mail messages poured into BBC Sport Online.

In December last year Best was admitted to hospital in Limassol, Cyprus, suffering from a fever and a gastrointestinal tract infection.

The star underwent extensive treatment for liver damage at the Cromwell Hospital two years ago.

He was warned then that if he ever drank again it could kill him.

And in February last year Best, who now works as a sports commentator, was treated at Belfast City Hospital for pneumonia.

He has battled with drink all his life and was arrested in 1984 for drink-driving and assaulting a police officer.

George Best

Best's liver transplant

Background

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