Friday, 10 June 2016

Esquire (July 2016) now on stands: George Best

I haven't written about football at any great length since this, about Zinedine Zidane in 2006, but I'm pleased to report that I have another long piece about another truly great player - George Best - in the new Esquire. The Best essay is rather more concerned with class and culture and money and celebrity in the UK over the last 50 years than it is with what goes on inside the mind of a true master when he's out in the middle of the park - which was and is my interest in the great Zidane. But Best's gifts have been well examined, I have to say, and remain available to the eyes of newcomers on tape. What has happened to the national game in light of socio-economic changes in wider British society still has work to be done on it, in my view, and I will have more to say on that myself in a new book next year.

In footballing terms, though, there's just one thing I'd want to add to what's printed in Esquire, related to this notion of a comparison between supreme athlete and megastar musician that has advanced with the more the former receives in remuneration and adulation. The performance anxiety of a footballer ought really to exceed that of any rock star: the crowd is tougher, plus there’s an opposition whose job is to stop you playing. But Best relished adversity. In the European Cup Final of 1968 against Benfica, he was targeted, fouled, and repeatedly felled – a lesser man might have been psyched out of the game. Instead Best scored a crucial goal that put Man United on the way to their first European trophy. Not just a pretty face, to put it mildly.

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