The four-mile route between the humble family home in the Cregagh estate to a public service amidst the grandeur of Parliament Buildings, Stormont, was lined with applauding people who threw football scarves and flowers onto the hearse.
There, the family held center stage although a representative mix of civic and political figures were also invited into the Great Hall. A private blessing had been held earlier at the family home.
From before dawn, people began lining up round the block to get one of the 30,000 places at Stormont (for public safety reasons, the sodden grassy banks had been cordoned off). Three huge television screens broadcast events to the crowds in the rain.
Although some Catholics said they felt unable to attend the funeral because of its location in unfamiliar and mainly Protestant East Belfast, many thousands watched the event live on television.
Pride of place inside the Great Hall at Stormont went to Best’s father, Dickie, his son, Calum, and two sisters. Best’s former wives, Angie and Alex, along with his last partner, Ros Hollidge, also attended.
Before a minute’s silence at Stormont, a lone piper played a lament and the coffin was then carried into Parliament Buildings as singer Peter Corry sang “Bring Him Home” from the musical, “Les Miserables.”
The host, TV presenter Eamon Holmes, said in a country that “often cannot rise above religion and politics”, Best had done “more than most to bring us together.” The footballer had, said Holmes, “belonged to us all and today we want to show the world how delighted we are that he came from a country of just one-and-a-half million people.”
Dignitaries present included England soccer manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, the PSNI Chief Constable, Sir Hugh Orde, former snooker champions Denis Taylor and Alex Higgins and former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill.
Politicians included the Northern Secretary Peter Hain, the DUP deputy leader, Peter Robinson, and Sinn Fein chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness. Members of the Cregagh Boys’ Football Club formed a guard of honour.
At the request of the Best family, 10 members of the crowd were chosen at random to attend the ceremony inside. One, James Potter, 69, from Dundonald, said: “I’m a Cregagh Road man and my brother played with George. This is fantastic, it’s the greatest honor of my life.”
The surgeon who carried out his liver transplant, Professor Roger Williams, told those gathered that Best had “wanted to kick the alcohol.” The doctor added that it had been impossible to preserve a completely professional relationship with his patient.
Among the stars who sent tributes were Elton John, Van Morrison and Mickey Rourke. Flowers were also sent by the Prime Minster Tony Blair and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
After the ceremony the body of the soccer legend was buried privately, beside his mother, Ann, at Roselawn Cemetery.
The Best family is considering how best to deal with all the football shirts, scarves and other mementoes they’ve received, with one possibility being to send them to the South African township of Soweto.