‘Good job – much better than Ronaldo’: onlookers give verdicts on George Best statue

Onlookers have given their verdicts on the new George Best statue.

By Adam Kula
Wednesday, 22nd May 2019, 5:03 pm
The much-mocked statue of Cristiano Ronaldo at Madeira airport, and the new statue of George Best
The much-mocked statue of Cristiano Ronaldo at Madeira airport, and the new statue of George Best

Despite no announcement being made publicly about the unveiling of the statue at the Olympia sports centre, south Belfast, word got out and perhaps a couple of hundred people turned up today.

The statue is deliberately at ground level, its designer said, to reflect Best’s man-of-the-people status.

Pat McFall

Among them was John Noble, a 49-year-old sheltered accommodation co-ordinator from east Belfast.

He said: “It’s excellent. I think it’s a brilliant idea that it’s level, not on a plinth.

“It’s very good – you’d know right away it’s him.”

Neal Hewitt, an 83-year-old ex-Nortel worker based in Carrick, said he first saw Best play when the NI star was 17.

Neal Hewitt

As to what he makes of the statue: “Nothing will ever do him justice. It’s a good job but with a valuation as high as I have of him it’d take something really immeasurable to actually do him justice.”

Ray Allen, 46 and from east Belfast, who works in accounts and is a Northern Ireland season ticket holder, said: “It seems to be quite a good likeness.

“Better than the Ronaldo one – it’s better than that at least [a reference to the much-mocked bronze statue of the Portugal star at Madeira airport]”.

Meanwhile Margaret Gatt, a 77-year-old ex-hospital worker from west Belfast, described the sculptor as a “fantastic artist” and the statue as “absolutely fantastic”.

Ray Allen

Pat McFall, 58 and from Lisburn, who was with three other members of the Muckamore Reds Man Utd supporters’ club.

A Catholic himself, he stressed Best’s “cross-community” appeal, saying it was a “poetic” that his new statue is looking out towards west Belfast – describing him as a “man of the people” who was welcome anywhere in his city.

He praised the decision to locate it at ground level, saying it will allow fans to put their arms around him and drape their scarves over him.

Fundraiser Robert Kennedy had told the News Letter that despite the best fundraising efforts of fans over about a 13 year period (acting without financial support from the IFA or council), sculptor Tony Currie himself had made up the difference to see the statue completed.

Margaret Gatt

Mr Currie, a former boxing champion, said he “sunk a lot of money into it”, and spent much time at weekends and evenings on completing it.

“I think it’s been fabulous. You couldn’t have wished for a better reaction, it’s been tremendous,” he said.

“You have all the nay-sayers. You’ll always have somebody to object!

“I’m happy with the end result.”