On 22nd May (what would have been George Best’s 64th birthday), eighteen young lads from the Foundation’s Trafford, Salford and Wythenshawe social inclusion programmes played in a game they would never forget.
They faced a team drawn together by the Castlereagh Borough Council, Belfast in the George Best Memorial Trophy. The match was the brainchild of George’s sister, Barbara McNally who wanted to recognise both the emotional and financial support that United fans have given to the George Best Foundation:
“George said remember me for my football and that is exactly what we did in Manchester on 17th March in Manchester and 22nd May in Belfast,” explains Barbara.
The Manchester leg was played at the First Team training ground in Carrington in March and after an evenly fought battle, the game ended 1-1.
The Manchester lads flew over to Belfast to play in the return leg. After a pre-match meal at the Northern Irish Parliament buildings - Stormont – the two teams lined up for what would be another 1-1 draw.
Despite such a closely fought battle the sportsmanship from both sides was exemplary. “The spirit in which the game was played was outstanding and each and every player is to be congratulated,” said Barbara. “I would like to extend our personal thanks to these young men who were outstanding ambassadors not just for both charities, but most importantly for the memory of George Best.”
In a nail-biting penalty shootout, it proved to be Manchester United who were victorious, lifting the Tyrone Crystal Trophy after winning 9 goals to 8.
It was an adrenalin fuelled finale to a tournament that had clearly made an impact on all involved:
“Being involved in this has changed my life and I feel honoured to be part of it.” Manchester United player, Jordan Valentine.
“It is a privilege for us to help keep alive the memory of one of the greatest football players who ever lived. All the teenagers entered into the spirit of the event. For the Manchester United Foundation players, the visit to George’s home city is a dream come true.” John Shiels, Chief Executive, Manchester United Foundation
“The event presented all these young people with a unique opportunity to learn and develop skills through the power of football both on and off the pitch.” Carol Kirby, Project Manager, Manchester United Foundation
Before returning home to Manchester the players visited George Best’s grave at Roselawn cemetery. As they each laid a flower in respect of this football icon, his tournament proved that no matter how humble your beginnings, you should never stop aspiring to meet your dreams