George Best film opens up football’s flawed genius

London (AFP) – George Best’s prodigious rise to football superstardom and plunge into alcoholic self-destruction is laid bare in a new documentary film that focuses on the character¬†behind the tragic tale.

“George Best: All By Himself”, which has its world premiere at the London Film Festival on Friday, looks at what lay behind one of football’s greatest-ever players — a man who drove himself to the top of his game and the bottom of a bottle.

“George Best is a story that we all think we know, and what interested me about doing the film was the opportunity to tell a story that we didn’t know,” the movie’s director Daniel Gordon told AFP.

“George was a lot more complex than we thought, as were the reasons for his downfall.”

Rather than relying on old television interviews with Best, his disembodied voice is heard telling the story of his own life.

“It’s almost like he’s talking from beyond the grave,” said Gordon.

The film also uses fresh interviews with the people in Best’s life — the wives and girlfriends, friends, and fellow players — to see how his turbulent nature consumed those around him.

“You see his career of addiction,” said Gordon.

“At the beginning of his life, he’s totally addicted to football. Then he’s addicted to the women, the fame and then to the booze — and the last addiction is the one that absolutely kills him.”

– Fifth Beatle –

Born in Belfast in 1946, Best left for Manchester United aged 15 and made his debut two years later.

Best became a cultural icon as he propelled United to the English league title in 1965 and 1967, and the European Cup in 1968. He was even nicknamed the fifth Beatle.

“Understanding what it does to take a child out of their environment, dump them somewhere, and within two years he’s playing in front of 60,000 adoring people and becoming the first football pop idol, and all of the dangers that come with that, no-one could foresee, because he was the first,” said Gordon.

Having won the most glittering prizes available at a young age, Best’s hunger waned. Womanising and excessive drinking took over.

Manchester United kicked him out for good at 27 and Best ended up drifting around soccer clubs in the United States.

The film concentrates on his playing years, though it is not a documentary about his football career.

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