Most soccer players cope well with their rise to fame and enjoy playing soccer, earning money and enjoying the good things in life that come with it. A soccer player’s career at the top can be as short as ten years, and a player with a head on his shoulders will soon realize that they have to safeguard their future by investing in their health and their financial stability after their careers on the soccer field has drawn to a close.
The sad fact that some players abuse not only the gifts they have been given, but also make a mockery of the adulation and trust that have been placed on them by their team mates, their families and the fans who indirectly were involved in paying their inflated salaries. Soccer players should serve as a personal example to young people of the rewards the sport can bring. One of the first and most tragic examples was that of George Best of Manchester United and Northern Ireland. Best was a member of the great Manchester United team that won the European Cup in 1968, and was capped 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals.
George Best was discovered in Belfast by Manchester United Scout Bob Bishop aged 15. He was subsequently given a trial by chief scout Joe Armstrong in 1961. So impressed was Matt Busby with this small in stature, slim in build soccer genius that he signed him on the spot. George wore the red soccer uniform of Manchester United for the first time in 1963. His teams mates then were Denis Law and Bobby Charlton, with whom Best had a love/ hate relationship for almost forty years.
He made 466 appearances for Manchester United in all competitions, scoring 178 goals (including six in one game against Northampton Town), playing. He played mainly as a winger. The highlight of his career for the “reds” was undoubtedly winning the European Cup with them in 1968, Best scored a brilliant solo goal in extra time in United’s 4-1 victory over Benfica in an emotional night at the Wembley Stadium in London. At the age of twenty-two the world was at his feet.
At the peak of his career Best has been called the most naturally gifted player ever to come out of the UK, rivaled only by Pel?� and Diego Maradona on the world stage
While at Manchester United, Best’s talent and showmanship made him a crowd and media favourite. He was dubbed “the fifth Beatle” for his long hair and good looks. Sadly George became more and more a cult figure and less a soccer player, and at the age of 27, Manchester United released him from his contract. He wandered the soccer stage for another ten years, becoming more and more a freak show. When he eventually retired, he ran out of money not long after. When interviewed at this bankruptcy hearing, Best, who had made a fortune during his time as a player, said “Most of my money was spent on women, drinking and fast cars” “The rest I just squandered.” He summed up.
Despite his failings, George Best remained a much loved figure amongst the British public. His battle against alcoholism came to an end in November 2005 when he passed away at the age of 59. He was out-lived even by the legendary Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby who nurtured him to greatness, “We had our problems with the wee fellow,” Busby commented, “but I prefer to remember his genius.”