Emotional tributes for Best

Best died Friday night aged 59.

More than 40 years after he left his mother Ann to begin a spectacular footballing career, he will be laid to rest in the family’s cemetery plot in the hills overlooking Belfast.

Best’s father Dickie, 87, refused to allow anything but a home coming which will be a funeral like no other in the history of Northern Ireland.

His agent Phil Hughes said: “George always said he wanted to be taken home to be buried beside his mother. When the subject came up, Dickie said to me he would like to take him home to Belfast. It was both their wishes, and there’s no one will stand between them.”

Legends of the game, including team mates in the great Manchester United side that lifted the European Cup, are expected to fly into Belfast to pay their final respects.

Arrangements for the funeral in a week’s time are still to be finalised by Best’s family, including sisters Grace, Julie, Carole and Barbara, and brother Ian.

Dickie, who today urged the press to leave them to grieve, will be anxious to avoid the glare of the world’s media on his terrace home in east Belfast’s Cregagh estate where George grew up.

Ex-wives Alex and Angie are expected to be among the mourners.

But despite Best’s well-earned reputation as a womaniser, none of the blondes or Miss Worlds came close to the devotion he had for his mother.

Ann, who died aged 54 after her own fight against alcoholism, is buried in a grave at the Roselawn Cemetery on the Castlereagh hills.

Jim Boyce, the Irish Football Association president who helped organise a testimonial match for Best at Windsor Park stadium in 1988, said many of the game’s greats would make the trip over to pay their final respects.

“George is a Belfast boy known throughout the world as a Belfast boy and it’s only right he should be buried here. There will be people from all over the soccer world and those who were his friends will want to be here,” Mr Boyce said.

As news of his death spread, the gates of the Belfast city hall were transformed into a shrine to the troubled star.

Floral tributes piled up beneath a Christmas tree, while a massive banner was quickly unfurled declaring: “Best Ever – Farewell to a Legend.”

Inside, books of condolence were amassed as the public queued to leave poignant tributes.

One signed by Kate Moore said: “May your beautiful spirit surround us forever.”

Another from the Lynch family typified how his charisma swept through generations.

“George, you were my dad’s idol, my idol and now my boys’.”

Alongside the Belfast public whose pride in him never wavered, visitors who found themselves in the city on a day it was united in grief felt compelled to make their own gesture.

Joonas Kupiainen, 27, a bank official from Joensuu, eastern Finland, was swept along by the mood after arriving from Dublin.

“It was just a unique opportunity to remember him,” he said.

“And I can tell just how much he meant to these people.”