Opponents' shirts part of George Best sale

Shirts worn by defenders who were tormented by George Best are among rare items for sale in an auction of memorabilia owned by the family of the late footballing legend this week.

Shirts worn by defenders who were tormented by George Best are among rare items for sale in an auction of memorabilia owned by the family of the late footballing legend this week.

A miniature replica of the European Cup commemorating the Manchester United star’s goal in the 1968 final triumph against Benfica will also be going under the hammer in Belfast.

The 110-lot collection, which is expected to fetch up to £100,000 (€108,000), belonged to Best’s father Dickie, who died last year aged 88.

Other notable collector pieces on offer at Wilsons Auction house on Thursday night include a letter opener presented to the forward to mark his two goals in another stunning victory over Benfica, this time two years before the European Cup final.

Best’s two goals in Portugal that night in 1966 earned him the nickname “El Beatle”.

Framed photographs signed by Best’s contemporaries at old Trafford, including legendary manager Matt Busby, are also in the catalogue, as is a cine camera given to the star by his old team in Belfast, Cregagh Boy Club, when he joined United.

This lot is accompanied by a photograph of George being presented with the gift in 1963 alongside his mother and father.

The collection also holds recent items, including a framed copy of the order of service from the star’s funeral in Belfast in 2005.

Dickie Best stipulated in his will that both the family home at 16 Burren Way in the Cregagh estate and its contents were sold upon his death.

Richard Bell from Wilsons Auctioneers said it was huge honour to have been asked to conduct the sale.

“George Best is an iconic figure and perhaps the most talented and charismatic sportsman to come from northern Ireland,” he said, revealing that the auction has already attracted interest from around the world.

“I had an email this morning from San Diego from a gentleman who had found out about the sale and he’s interested in two or three different items,” he added.

“We would expect that, obviously there’s a big connection with Northern Ireland football and Man United football. I mean it’s just phenomenal the number of fans he had.”

Among the shirts for sale are ones George swapped with international opponents while playing for Northern Ireland. The England, Scotland, Holland and Switzerland jerseys are all framed and signed by Best.

“They have attracted quite a bit of interest and we would expect that there would be a lot of people wanting to own those,” said Mr Bell.

While reluctant to indulge in too much speculation on possible prices, the auctioneer said he was confident the economic downturn would not have a negative impact.

“I think and I hope there will be items here for everybody to get a chance to buy and I hope there will be a few gasps from the audience,” he said.

“But how do we put a value on items that once belonged or were handed to other people by George Best?

“He was undoubtedly one of the most iconic sportsmen every to come from Northern Ireland so that’s going to make the difference between what’s a good price and an absolutely phenomenal price.

“How or when are you ever going to get the opportunity again to own something from this particular collection and that’s what makes it so exciting for us as auctioneers.”

The collection is on public view at Wilsons Auction in Mallusk, north Belfast, tomorrow and Wednesday with the sale getting under way at 7.30pm on Thursday.

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