Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Today at Old Trafford

A few days after the death of one of the greatest footballers of all time, tributes are continuing to grow outside one of his old clubs, Manchester United

I was outside the ground taking photographs for work. I arrived just after lunch and was amazed to see most of the pavement in front of the ground occupied with all kinds of tributes and messages from members of the public.
George Best certainly lived up to his name, he was a great footballer during his day and he was probably the first 'modern' footballing superstar. His private life may well have been checkered by alcohol abuse, bust ups and court appearances but the UK people watched with sadness as George Best failed to recover from a complicated and protracted illness.

Largely thanks to the media, everyone can identify with death if they have followed the story via the news channels. We have heard all the details and even seen pictures from his bedside so it is no wonder that when the news came on Friday, lots of people were genuinely saddened. I was also saddened by that fact that after his Doctor had given him 24 hours to live, George best would have been able to read his obituary in the paper the next day. I can't help but wonder why the media chose to make as much of this as they did. It has been said that people from the UK now show collective grief on an unhealthy scale at times like this and whether this is true or not. It has probably been largely fueled by the hourly updates on his condition which were broadcast for two or three days solid.

George Best will definitely be remembered for his football, but like some footballers of today he seems to have been the 'flawed genius' He struggled off the pitch in many ways but according to those who met him, he was a gentleman who had time for most people. Over the last few days most people at Old Trafford made time for George Best. They carefully looked over the masses of cards, scarves and shirts which have been place outside the ground.

I felt strangely moved by being there today. Not just by the awareness that someone from the media spotlight, to whom I had become attached has died, but was also moved by watching other people as they came to be a part of what was happening. I spoke with a family from Glasgow who had come to lay flowers and I also spoke with a man from Nigeria who seemed deeply moved by what he was seeing even though he was unaware as to who George Best was.

As I left and as I look back over my photographs, I am challenged in many ways. What makes a hero? Why can so many people seem to be so affected by events such as these and why is our society so defunct when people obviously care so much? Whatever the answers to questions like these are, my thoughts and prayers rest with Georges family.

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