Peace murals | Out with ‘burly guys,’ in with Georgie

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George Best in memoriam. Link to Christian Science Monitor article.Belfast, Northern Ireland | Grisly sectarian murals glorifying violence between Unionists and Republicans have nearly a 100-year-old tradition in Northern Ireland, but posthumous murals devoted to George Best and other mural “decommissionings” are slowly changing the scene. “Imagine a wee boy or girl looking out of their bedroom window and seeing only burly guys with rifles. What does that do to them, psychologically” asks Rev. Gary Mason, a Methodist minister who has worked to replace nine murals thus far. “It doesn’t only say violence is acceptable, which would be bad enough; it says violence is something to be celebrated in colorful paintings.”

Peace murals are also being added in Catholic West Belfast, including celebrations of Celtic myths and the Irish landscape. Best’s mural became a shrine to his memory after his death; other East Belfast subjects include C.S. Lewis, incorporating scenes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Given the continued outpouring for Best—more than 1,000 people per day visiting his grave in Roselawn Cemetery—the Belfast City Council is considering a permanent memorial. Brendan O’Neill, who compiled the Christian Science Monitor report on Belfast’s murals, wonders on the “Spiked Politics” Web log if Best can legitimately serve as a symbol of unity. “[H]e is fast being turned into a political symbol,” O’Neill writes, “a bland beacon of hope and unity, by cynical politicians and community activists who wouldn’t know what a football was if one hit them in the face.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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