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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2005, 20:24 GMT
Best family comforted by NI fans
George Best's grave
Some of the hundreds of wreaths and floral tributes at Best's grave
The sister of soccer legend George Best has told how her family has been comforted by the immense support from people in Northern Ireland.

Barbara McNarry said fans of the football legend, who was buried on Saturday, had been "amazing."

Tens of thousands of mourners applauded Best's coffin as it was driven to and from the funeral service at Stormont.

Mrs McNarry said the fans "have been absolutely phenomenal and have given us a lot of strength to get through this".

She made the comments to the BBC in her first television interview since Best's funeral on Saturday.

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

Earlier, her husband Norman spoke of the family's "completely surreal experience" in recent weeks.

He said after Best died, they decided to "pull out all the stops" to allow his fans to pay their respects.

"Before coming back (to Northern Ireland), we made the choice as a family to make this a very special funeral for a very special person."

Best, 59, was buried beside his mother Ann
Best, 59, was buried beside his mother Ann
Mr McNarry said the family "seemed to be bearing up well" following the funeral.

"For the last couple of weeks, it has been a completely surreal experience for us all," he said.

"This started on the Friday when we flew over when we heard George was extremely ill, and the week preceding his death was horrendous."

Mr McNarry said he was pleased that although the public had participated in the funeral, there was a private element for the grieving family.

"We felt that we owed it to the great people who have supported George so very well throughout his illness, but also required a bit of space for ourselves," he said.

"We basically said that the funeral at (George's father's house at) Burren Way and by the graveside is private, everything else is for the people."

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

Up to 50 shirts of various Irish, English and Scottish soccer teams were left in the front garden at the east Belfast home of Best's father Dickie.

People applauding as the coffin passed
People applauded as the coffin passed

More were draped from the gates at the front of Belfast City Hall, at Windsor Park where Best played for Northern Ireland, and close to his grave at Roselawn Cemetery.

The Best family are to donate the thousands of football shirts to underprivileged children, probably in Soweto and Rio de Janeiro.

Mr McNarry said George Best would have been delighted to see the tributes finding a good home.

"I understand that some tabloid newspaper said yesterday that they were being thrown in the bin, but there's absolutely no way we would take that course of action," he added.

He later said that the family felt they had now been given a mission.

"After Saturday, we were prepared to slip back into obscurity. But we feel we have now been given a mission, even, to carry on the good work that George did but did not seek publicity for.

"We're very proud and very privileged to be able to carry on trying to do the good that George did when he was alive."

The idea came from a listener to BBC Radio Ulster's George Jones, who said it was hard to know how much football memorabilia was there to be sorted through.

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