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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 22:39 GMT
Stormont funeral for George Best
Thousands are expected to attend George Best's funeral
Football legend George Best is to be buried in Belfast on Saturday after a funeral service at Stormont.

It is expected to be one of the biggest funerals ever seen in Northern Ireland, with thousands of people expected to line the route to Parliament Buildings.

NI secretary Peter Hain agreed Stormont should be made available after an approach by the Best family.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and the club's chief executive David Gill will attend the funeral.

Best's agent Phil Hughes said he would fly to the city with the former NI international's body on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, NI Sports Minister David Hanson has said he has not ruled out calling the proposed new Northern Ireland sports stadium after George Best.

Mr Hanson said it would take time before a final decision would be made but he said it was important that Best was remembered in an appropriate way.

The funeral cortege will leave the Best family home in the Cregagh area of east Belfast at 1000 GMT on Saturday. It will then go along a three mile route through east Belfast to Stormont.

Once there, it is thought there will then be a mixture of a public and private ceremony for the world famous footballer.

It is expected to take place in the Great Hall inside Parliament Buildings and be relayed to those outside by a public address system.

Parliament Buildings
Funeral service will take place at Parliament Buildings

Many sporting stars, including team mates from Manchester United's European Cup winning side of 1968, together with current representatives of the club, are expected to attend.

DUP East Belfast MP Peter Robinson said Stormont was chosen because the size of the estate would allow the public to take part in the service.

After the service, the cortege will go to Roselawn Cemetery where Best will be buried beside his mother.

There will then be a gathering for family and friends of the famous player at a Belfast hotel.

There are to be other memorials too, the 60s singer Don Fardon hopes a re-release of his 1972 song Belfast Boy can become the Christmas number one.

"Whatever they decide to do, whether they decide to erect a stature, wherever, whatever the proceeds of the record are I shall make a decent contribution towards that," he said.

Prayers were said on Sunday in churches across Northern Ireland, after Best, who had been ill with a serious lung infection since October, died on Friday.

Manchester United players and fans were among those paying tribute to the footballer ahead of their first match since his death.

There was a minute of applause before their game against West Ham. His former United team-mate Sir Bobby Charlton thanked them for showing respect.

On Saturday, a minute's silence was held at Irish League matches in honour of the east Belfast man.

The Irish rugby team wore black armbands for their match against Romania in Dublin as a mark of respect.

Hundreds of people also queued to sign a book of condolence for the former star at Belfast City Hall.

Young girl leaves flowers outside the Best family home in Belfast
Fans have been leaving tributes outside Best's boyhood home

Floral tributes have been left at the Best family home on the Cregagh estate in the east of the city and flags are flying at half-mast in the borough of Castlereagh.

Best was made a Freeman of the Borough in 2002.

The CIS Cup Final between Glentoran and Linfield scheduled for next Saturday has been put back to 10 December because of the funeral.


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