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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 December 2005, 17:11 GMT
Final farewell to football legend
People applaud as the coffin passes by
People applaud as the coffin passes by

Northern Ireland football legend George Best has been laid to rest after an emotional funeral service at Stormont in Belfast.

Tens of thousands of mourners applauded along the route to Parliament Buildings where the service was held.

Some of the biggest names in football attended, including Best's lifelong friend Denis Law and Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Best, 59, was buried beside his mother Ann at Roselawn Cemetery.

At Stormont, the crowd threw flowers and football shirts onto the hearse.

The police said an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 were on the streets and at Stormont for the funeral.

Speaking afterwards, George's son Calum said it had been a sad, but also an amazing and unbelievable day.

A private blessing was earlier held at the family home in Cregagh.

Before a minute's silence at Stormont, a lone piper played a lament and the coffin was then carried into Parliament Buildings.

What mere mortal could do what he did on a pitch. Today we celebrate his life
Eamonn Holmes
TV presenter

Members of the Cregagh Boys' Football Club formed a guard of honour.

Former Northern Ireland manager Billy Bingham, international team-mates Derek Dougan, Peter McParland, Harry Gregg, Gerry Armstrong and Denis Law were the first to carry the coffin to the base of the Stormont steps.

At the request of the Best family, 10 members of the crowd were chosen at random to attend the ceremony.

One of those, James Potter, 69, from Dundonald, said: "I'm a Cregagh Road man and my brother played with George. This is fantastic, it's the greatest honour of my life."

Representatives of the government, sporting organisations, political parties and police were among the mourners.

Best, 59, was buried beside his mother Ann
Best, 59, was buried beside his mother Ann

They included England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, Secretary of State Peter Hain, former snooker champions Denis Taylor and Alex Higgins and NI footballing great Martin O'Neill.

During the service, Calum Best, holding back tears, thanked everyone for the sympathies they had sent and read a poem he had been sent by a woman in Belfast, which he said had struck a chord with him.

George's sister, Barbara, said to many her brother had been a superstar and a superhero, and to her he had been "my super-brother, my hero".

The surgeon who carried out his liver transplant, Professor Roger Williams, told those gathered in the Great Hall, George had "wanted to kick the alcohol".

SATURDAY'S EVENTS
Day began with private blessing at family home in Cregagh estate
Funeral procession headed to Parliament Buildings, Stormont, for public service at 1100 GMT
Big screens relayed service to crowds outside
Private burial followed at Roselawn Cemetery

He spoke about the ex-footballers' medical difficulties and of the affection in which he was held across the world.

Best died last Friday in London's Cromwell Hospital, several weeks after being admitted with flu-like symptoms on 1 October.

Tens of thousands lined the streets to the Stormont estate and lined the route to the cemetery in the hills above east Belfast.

Three hundred invited guests attended the special service in the Great Hall, which was led by TV presenter and Manchester United supporter Eamonn Holmes.

Best's brother Ian, agent Phil Hughes, Dr Akeel Alisa, who treated Best, and his brothers-in-law Norman McNarry and Alan McPherson, were also pallbearers.

The football magic of George Best will live on forever
Olav Grinde, Bergen, Norway

The service also featured school choirs, readings and performances from Belfast singers Brian Kennedy and Peter Corry.

Best's former wives Angie and Alex, along with his last partner, Ros Hollidge, attended.

The gates of Stormont opened to the public at about 0830 GMT and the police said 25,000 people were inside the Stormont estate.

The service in the Great Hall was relayed via big screen and loudspeakers to the crowd outside.

The PSNI thanked those who lined the streets and were in the Stormont grounds for their orderly manner during the funeral.

The crowds had cooperated fully and honoured the family's wishes, said police.




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