The day football lied to me and I fell in love with it

Do you trust football? Strange question, I know. I don't.


"Football is a game of deceit," Diego Maradona memorably declared.


"In football the result is an imposter," Xavi said, echoing Maradona's scepticism.


And no match has been more deceitful - more of an imposter - to a young, relatively new-to-football, fan than Germany 1 England 5 was to me.


Looking back it feels like this match took place in an alternative universe - where Germany were crap and England were amazing.


It's 2001, I'm nine-years-old sitting down to watch this World Cup qualifier - just the third match I've ever properly seen - in a hostel in London.


Why was a nine-year-old Australian staying in a hostel in London? The answer is frankly poor life and parenting choices by my mother - but there was sport on the telly so I wasn't bothered.


I wanted to learn as much as I could about this game so I went to the common room and made sure I could hear everything the commentators were saying.


This was a big match. You know that looking back because Pierluigi Collina was referring and it felt like he did all the big games in the early 2000s. And because it took place in Munich's Olympiastadion with almost 70,000 people in the stands.


Germany, at home, were inexplicably wearing one of the ugliest away kits you'll ever see. The dark green reminiscent of Pantone 448 C - the colour they put on cigarettes now in order to deter kids from buying them.


England, wearing their home kit for some reason, lined up with the base of what would come to be known as the golden generation - Beckham, Scholes, Owen, Gerrard, Ferdinand, Ashley Cole.


This was one of the game's great rivalries I was quickly learning as I sat alone.


Just before kick-off a group of drunk German backpackers burst into the common room and insisted on shouting and drowning out all the information I was soaking up.


I should point out they had every right to do so, it was a common room after all and it was a hostel and what the fuck was a nine year old doing there in the first place? Thank god they were drunk, otherwise they probably would have called the Department of Children's Services.


Perhaps conditioned by history, I was very annoyed by this group of cocky Germans who had shown up uninvited and taken over the space - it was then I decided I was supporting England that night.


That seemed like a dumb move six minutes in when Bayern Munich's Carsten Jancker stomped the ball past David Seaman and into the goal to give Germany a 1-0 lead.


Back in the common room of the hostel, 12 Germans went bezerk while one young Aussie sat quietly as beer spilt all over him.


It felt like I was in for a long night. Germany hadn't lost a World Cup qualifier since 1985 and hadn't lost at the Olympiastadion since 1973.


But after 12 minutes everything started to change.


David Beckham stood over a free-kick. White boots, white socks, white kit. He is almost certainly the only white guy to ever make the 'skinhead look' smooth.


The ball was floated into the box, Germany failed to clear properly, goalkeeper Oliver Kahn panicked and Nick Barmby - yes, Nick Barmby - headed the ball down to a 21-year-old Michael Owen who volleyed the ball into an empty net.


1-1. Game on.


Sometimes in football you need luck, and sometimes you just need the opposition to inexplicably miss a great chance. And that's exactly what Sebastian Deisler did at 1-1.


"The crucial moment in the whole game was that miss by Deisler. If he had scored – and he should have – they would have gone in ahead at half-time," England coach Sven Goran-Eriksson said.


Just before half-time, Beckham was again lining up a free-kick from out wide. Again Germany failed to clear the ball properly and the ball came back out to Beckham. His awkward left-foot cross found Rio Ferdinand who headed it to a 21-year-old Steven Gerrard.


Up until that moment, Gerrard had never scored for England. It was only his sixth appearance at international level.


But because he's Stevie G, he decided none of that mattered and he smashed the ball home from 30 yards into the bottom corner. Half-time. 2-1 to England.


Back in the hostel in London the Germans were quiet. I was somewhat ironically experiencing Schadenfreude.


In Munich, a young Jamie Carragher sat in the dressing room watching Owen.


"Owen was really wound up, to an extent that I'd never seen from him before. He had the scent of blood and knew we would take Germany apart in the second half if we did the right things. He was operating at the top of his game that night. He was unstoppable," Carragher said.


Three minutes into the second half Owen pounced.


Beckham once again crossed the ball in, Heskey this time nodded it down and Owen volleyed it past Kahn. 3-1.


Kahn really was one of the best goalkeepers in the world at the time, but as he said later; "we might as well have had my gym bag in goal."


3-1 down but Germany continued to have more of the ball, and more of the chances.


Gerrard, who I had never heard of before this match but now thought was better than Batman, took the ball off Ballack and played a one-touch through ball to Owen.


The speedy striker raced into the box, blasted it above Kahn and had his first international hat-trick.


66 minutes gone. Germany 1 England 4.


Back in London the Germans cleared out of the common room dejected. I was ecstatic, I was free to celebrate my new found heroes, Gerrard and Owen.


The final lie came in the 74th minute. Germany were pushing for a goal, England had space on the counter. Beckham played in Scholes who's inch-perfect pass found Heskey.


I didn't realise it then, but I was watching something very rare, an Emile Heskey international goal.


'This is fantastic. Owen, Gerrard and Heseky are brilliant. And they all play for the same club? This Liverpool team must be incredible,' I thought to myself.


Full-time. Possession; Germany 61% - England 39% Shots: Germany 14 - England 10 Goals: Germany 1- England 5.


I came out of this match with the deluded conclusion that England was amazing, Germany was awful, Liverpool had the best attack in the world, Sven Goran-Eriksson was some kind of Swedish genius, Oliver Kahn was as useful as a traffic cone and Michael Owen was the most popular player in the world.


I spent the next nine years of the 2000s avidly watching football and all those myths were busted.


Michael Owen became almost loathed by everyone, Sven became a symbol of frustration, Germany were pretty much consistently brilliant, England consistently awful, Oliver Kahn nearly won the Ballon D'or and Liverpool won nothing with Owen, Heskey and Gerrard after this match.


It didn't even take long, nine months later Germany were in a World Cup final and England had gone out in the quarter-finals.


But on September 1, 2001 I sat in a hostel and watched football lie to me and I've loved it ever since.


- Nick Stoll for www.footballretro.com

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