Best film will be a welcome diversion that reminds us of a genius

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Morning View

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It has been a battering year for almost anyone who follows current events closely.

There is political turbulence in Europe and north America. The migrant crises on both sides of the Atlantic are a long way from being resolved.

The very existence of the European Union is in peril. The shape of Britain’s future outside of it is uncertain.

Conflicts in places including Syria continue to rage.

At home, we have political instability and continuing deep divisions with regard to how to approach our troubled past.

The release this coming week of a documentary about the footballing genius George Best, therefore, will be for many people a welcome diversion.

It will remind viewers of his extraordinary gifts, which were recognised around the world.

Best once appear on the Parkinson chat show alongside David Beckham and Elton John. The latter, a dedicated football fan, almost ignored Beckham as he listed all the greatest players he had ever watched in person, and said that Best was right up there with any of them in terms of talent.

This documentary interviews the Brazilian Pelé, himself a genius, who once Best was the most brilliant player of all.

It is fitting that the film will be released at a time of political uncertainty. Best was at his peak as the Vietnam war was raging and Northern Ireland descended into chaos.

His extravagant skills were a source of great pride to people in Northern Ireland – that we, a country so tiny, had produced someone with such prodigious abilities that he was famous around the footballing world.

The fact that Best was both charming, but also so flawed, only made it easier for people to relate to him. He was the Belfast boy who became the ‘fifth Beatle’ but whose life ended prematurely due to an alcohol addiction. It is a tragic tale that continues to entrance us.

The documentary will premiere in Best’s home city as part of the Belfast Film Festival on Thursday.