Northern Ireland

Calum Best: Life with dad George 'tainted by drink'

George Best and Calum Best Image copyright PACEMAKER
Image caption Calum Best says chances to spend time with his father George were rare

"Thirty-four years of trials and tribulations" is how Calum Best describes his life as George Best's son.

It is now 10 years since Belfast-born George, widely regarded as one of football's greatest ever players, died aged 59, after a high-profile battle with alcoholism.

And now model and TV personality Calum has told BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback about how his relationship with his father was tainted by "the demon that was his drink problem".

Despite criticism over a new autobiography he has released detailing their time together, Calum says his intention has never been to put his father down.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption George Best won two league titles and the European Cup with Manchester United

"My life being Bestie's kid is very blessed and I'm very grateful for that," he said.

"George Best the footballer - nothing will ever be taken away from that, I'm his number one fan, I love him more than anybody.

"But I wanted to tell a story of what I went through not with George Best, but with an alcohol-dependent parent.

"He is not George Best the footballer to me.

"He is my dad and my dad had an alcohol-dependency problem that affected our relationship throughout my whole life."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Best also won 37 international caps for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals

Calum remembers one occasion when he was abandoned after he visited Old Trafford for the first time with the Manchester United and Northern Ireland legend.

"I put on the Best jersey, everyone's asking for pictures and I'm loving it.

"Unfortunately the day went so well that we went back to the hotel and then my dad disappeared for two days.

"I was 11-years-old in a hotel lobby, didn't quite know what to do. I was in the hotel room for a couple of days by myself until my dad came back.

"The booze got in the way of us enjoying that day and it turned sour."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Best died in 2005 after a high-profile battle with alcoholism

Because he lived in the United States during his childhood, Calum explained that chances to spend time with his father were rare.

But on one visit to England, he said George became violent towards him because he suspected a relationship between his 14-year-old son and his then-girlfriend.

"One night I'm in the house and he's come back in a bad, bad way and straight away the demons took over.

"He pinned me up against the wall, hand to the throat - it was an ugly scenario.

"I feel that an alcohol-dependent sweeps those things under the rug and you have to deal with that.

"I don't think he even realised that he was doing stuff wrong at the time, bless him, because he was lost in this illness."

Image caption Calum says George became violent towards him on one occasion

Calum said he believed that by telling his story it would make it easier for children living with alcohol-dependent parents to look for support.

But accusations from his father's family that he has fabricated some of the book's contents have caused him some upset.

"I'd never ever betray my dad.

"What totally flabbergasted me was the fact that his sister's husband thinks I am making this up. Why on earth would I want to do that?"

And he said he understands his father's fans in Northern Ireland who have given their views - positive and negative - on his book.

"Some of them respect what I'm doing. The others that don't I understand - George Best is their idol, their hero, and he's mine as well.

"But it's sometimes hard to hear stories that make a person human."

Image copyright AP
Image caption Calum says criticism from his father's family, particularly from George's sister Barbara (right), has hurt him

Calum added that he was sure that his father would have encouraged him to tell his story.

"He was an amazing man, but the alcohol is all we actually knew together.

"But I think my dad is proud of me and I will stick with that for the rest of my life."