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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 18:33 GMT
Best receives honorary degree
George Best receives honorary degree
George Best receives his honorary doctorate
Northern Ireland sporting legend George Best has been awarded a Doctorate of Queen's University.

The former Manchester United star received the accolade at the Belfast university on Thursday for his services to football.

Accompanied by his wife Alex, the 55-year-old star collected his doctorate before an audience of students who were conferred with their degrees.

A recovering alcoholic, Best confirmed this week that he is to have a liver transplant in the new year.


We are honouring George Best who is one of the most exceptional football players of the last century

George Bain
QUB Chancellor

His addiction, which has resulted in a string of health scares in recent years, cut short a top flight career at the age of 27.

The audience at the annual winter graduation ceremony heard Best, dressed in academic robes, described as "a Belfast boy, who made a historic and unsurpassed contribution to association football".

University registrar James O'Kane added that he was "noteworthy, sometimes notorious, but never ignored".

Best scored 179 goals in a glittering career for Manchester United in 466 games between 1963 and 1974.

He was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland and named British and European Footballer of the Year in 1968 when he was only 22.

Transplant

Thursday's award came as a boost to the star who underwent extensive treatment for liver damage at the Cromwell Hospital in London last year.

Doctors have warned him that one drink could prove fatal and recently it was revealed that his liver was only functioning at 20%.

Because he has obeyed medical advice and has stayed off alcohol for a year, he is now eligible for a liver transplant that could offer him a new lease of life.

Belfast playwright Marie Jones was also honoured for her "outstanding" work by the university on Thursday, as she collected a Doctorate of Literature.

The award-winning playwright said it was great to be honoured alongside such a sporting great.

Literary success

"It's great - we are both from the same side of town and never pursued any kind of academic career and here we are getting the biggest accolade of all," she said.

Mrs Jones has had a string of stage successes both in Northern Ireland and around the world.

One of her best known works, Stones in His Pockets, opened on New York's Broadway in April and received the Evening Standard and Olivier Awards for Best Comedy.

Queen's University Vice Chancellor Sir George Bain praised both honourary graduands for their remarkable contribution to Northern Ireland life.

"We are honouring George Best who is one of the most exceptional football players of the last century. We are also honouring Marie Jones who is an outstanding playwright."

He added: "Today's ceremony gives us the opportunity to honour two Northern Ireland citizens who have done exceptionally well, not just in Northern Ireland but on the world stage."

See also:

11 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Best talks of transplant plans
10 Dec 01 | Northern Ireland
Best to get transplant
24 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Best's recovery continues
23 Nov 01 | Northern Ireland
Best in Cypriot hospital
Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.


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Links to more Northern Ireland stories