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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 08:07 GMT 09:07 UK
Best gets freedom of boyhood borough
George Best and wife, Alex.
George Best pictured with his wife, Alex.
Former soccer superstar George Best has been given the freedom of the borough where he grew up as a boy.

Castlereagh Council, County Down, on the outskirts of East Belfast honoured the former Manchester United star by giving him its highest accolade on Thursday night.

The motion, which was proposed by the Social Democratic and Labour Party and seconded by the Democratic Unionist Party was passed unanimously.

Best has been fighting a high-profile battle to give up alcohol, which has caused him recent health scares.

'Greatest soccer star'

He now lives in the County Down fishing village of Portavogie.

SDLP councillor Roseleen Hughes, who proposed the motion, said: "He grew up in the Cregagh estate and enjoyed his sports there.

"He was an unlikely footballer then, he was so small in stature when all of the others were big burly guys."

Ms Hughes added that it was a "wonderful moment" when all of the members, of the frequently divided council voted in favour of the motion.

'We hope he will accept'

She said: "We will write to him to ask him to accept it, which we hope he will and then we will decide what kind of ceremony to hold.

"Of course we have to take his illness into consideration. We hope he will be well enough to accept it and we hope he keeps well."

DUP member Peter Robinson said it was an ideal way to honour the area's most famous son.

"People in Castlereagh for a very long period of time have recognised that they have someone in George Best who was recognised throughout the world as probably the greatest soccer star, indeed the first superstar in soccer terms that the world has seen," he said.

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See also:

26 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Best's doctor speaks of relapse
24 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Best back on booze says agent
23 Mar 01 | Northern Ireland
Concerns over Best's health
10 Mar 00 | Sport
'Poorly' Best quits drinking
14 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
George Best leaves hospital
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