A new academy for budding footballers named after George Best has been opened on the 50th anniversary of the late star’s debut for Manchester United.
The George Best Foundation Academy, part of Belfast’s Metropolitan College, will work with 60 players aged between 16 and 18 and focus on both athletic and academic development.
Based in Best’s native city, students will undertake professional football training while studying for a Level 3 extended diploma in sport (performance and excellence).
The initiative, sponsored by the George Best Foundation, replaces the Belfast Met Football Academy, which was launched in 2011 as the first full-time football academy in Northern Ireland.
The opening was timed to coincide with a major anniversary in Best’s legendary footballing story.
Fifty years ago on Saturday, 17-year-old Best made his First Division debut for Manchester United against West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford in a 1-0 victory.
Best’s sister Barbara McNarry, patron of the foundation, said: “It is clear to see there is so much potential in the young players at Belfast Met, so we are delighted to support Northern Ireland’s future football talent by supporting the George Best Foundation Academy.
“Encouraging the young academy players to develop academic, life and leadership skills through the power of football and social inclusion is vitally important in order for them to fully develop and understand their individual talent.”
The academy will train at the University of Ulster’s Jordanstown campus.