Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

DRINK; Addiction That Has Cursed Best's Life

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

DRINK; Addiction That Has Cursed Best's Life

Article excerpt


GEORGE BEST was 16 years old when he first got drunk.

He was on a team visit to Switzerland, and on a night out with his team-mates he had drunk the grand total of three pints of lager. By the time he got back to the hotel he was roaring drunk.

After that he never looked back. The lager was replaced with vodka and lemonade, then champagne and wine (he was particularly fond of Chateauneufdu-Pape), but what never changed was his prodigious thirst.

When he was young and fit Best was able to carry it off, drinking until the small hours the night before a match and then, after the final whistle, carrying on where he had left off. However drunk he had been, it never seemed to affect his performance - or, indeed, his legendary ability to pick up women. But once he stopped training properly the alcohol began to take a visible toll on his body.

Best is sober now, thanks to a combination of the persuasive powers of his wife Alex, his consultant Prof Roger Williams and Antabuse tablets. If he takes so much as a sip of alcohol, he will be sick.

This year he celebrated his 56th birthday with a banana and honey milkshake.

Best may not be drinking these days, but the decades of abuse have wreaked terrible damage - both on his body and his personal life. When he was admitted to hospital after collapsing in agony, the doctors found that all those years of boozing had destroyed 80 per cent of his liver.

The drink - along with the womanising - also played its part in destroying his first marriage. Angie Best recalled in her autobiography her less-than-romantic wedding night in 1978. After a ceremony in Las Vegas the couple flew to Los Angeles where Best announced he had arranged to meet friends at the pub. "Don't wait up," he told his astonished bride. He returned drunk at 4am, his wife asleep. …

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