If George Best had a Cross... by André Bandeira

George Best was an Irishman from the North, a place where Protestants usually have the best jobs in every walk of life. That means that if he had been a construction worker, he would at least have a stable job. If he had been a peasant, he would have had, at least, a plot of land.

But he chose, as Protestant, to kick the ball, with Catholics, in soccer fields. Maybe he did it to prove that Catholics were not the best in one of the few jobs generally left over to those who had nothing better to do. Sometimes, a man is a prisoner of his own condition, sometimes there is a wall of steel between you and your neighbours, and you just may run along it, without ever being able to leap.

And he proved he was the best. As the legend tells, he won in the Manchester United, in many stadiums, bars, pubs and women of England.

But he lost in his own liver. They took it out from him, replaced it with another one and warned him, solemnly: if you keep on drinking, you will die.

He kept promising, promising he would not, but he did not make it. His smile and his slight body began to inflate till his eyes became sleight as the ones of a Mongol, from the centre of Asia. His eyes were always smiling.

George Best had chosen, as an oath or a curse, to be drunk most of his mature life, on Earth.

In a world which applies what the old Arab legends tell about, U-Bar - the arrogant capital of the nomads, the one of thousand alabaster columns, once upon a time destroyed by an earthquake - that “his habitants committed not only all possible sins, but also invented new ones to commit”, Best kept washing his hands out of Reality, with alcohol.

Maybe George Best, if he had a Cross on the wall of his School room when he began sweating, unable as he was to face the wall of protestant teachers and began dreaming of just get out to kick the ball, he could have drunk a little less.

After facing those ones who kept cursing him to be always “the Best”, he just couldn´t avoid killing the Reality and throw it into a flask full of alcohol and stay there, looking from the outside at a slow-motion solute.

After one glass, the tidy protestant lawns, turned into real soccer fields, after two, the difference between haves and have-nots became a match where everybody could score and be happy, even if he didn’t win, even if he was a catholic, even if he was an Irish renegade.

My God, Best! How could you ever be sober in such a world?

You, Best, slight and thin, with Chinese eyes, who have been an hero besides Negroes with a sad smile, as Eusébio, or a shining laugh as Pele, or even managed to have a smile back from a harsh Hun as Puskas. For the first time, among them, you certainly felt yourself to be free and equal, on your own merits...

Maybe if you ever had a Cross in the wall of your School yard, a point in the wall where to hold your Eskimo eyes, when so many voices kept giving you contradictory orders and you just dreamt of start running out, towards a boundless soccer lawn, Reality wouldn’t have been so dry!

Hey, Best, I need a drink!

Maybe you would have begun screaming as an Irishman, no matter from the North, or from the South, from the East or from the West, when a keeper, this last week-end, in Messina, Italy, as the supporters began to call him “nigger”, took the ball in his hands, walked to the centre of the field and stopped the match.

Than he began to gesture, as a fishmonger in the marketplace and said in his tiny, inaudible voice, while facing a full stadium: “ I am from Messina, this is my land. How can you insult me? How can you?”

Just as you, Best, when you used to fall and jumped again to be kicked down again, a sole man against the throng.

And the throng, Best, never had a chance...

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