Young England fan's prize: to lead out the Germans

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The Independent Football

A six-year-old from Gateshead who thought he had won a competition to lead out England at the World Cup has been told he will instead emerge from the tunnel with... the Germans.

Louis Moffatt won a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion and believed he was going to walk on to the pitch with the England captain, David Beckham, and meet his favourite player, Steven Gerrard.

Louis's father, Simon Harris, said that was what his son had been told by England's 1966 hat-trick hero, Sir Geoff Hurst, director of football for McDonald's. But when the match tickets landed on their doormat, there was an unwelcome surprise: Louis will instead accompany Michael Ballack when he leads out Germany for the opening match of the World Cup against Costa Rica on Friday evening.

"He is only six and it hasn't sunk in yet," said Mr Harris, 42, who will accompany him to the match in Munich. "He still thinks the England team will somehow materialise. His favourite player is Steven Gerrard and he has set his heart on meeting him. I tried to persuade him that meeting Ballack is just as good."

But Mr Harris, a rag and bone man, added: "It's not as if we are Germans or Costa Ricans. I don't understand the logic."

He said that McDonald's - specifically Sir Geoff, who met Louis after he won the competition - gave the impression Louis would lead out England during one of their first-round fixtures. "Sir Geoff promised him an England game," he insisted.

Louis was initially "distraught" when the tickets landed on the doormat. "I would have liked an England game because I don't know any of the German players," he said. "I have been telling everyone I would be mascot for England. I had been looking forward to meeting the team."

Mr Harris, who also met Sir Geoff when he was six, stressed the prize was "fantastic", but said: "To promise a kid something like that then not go through with it is very unprofessional. They did apologise profusely for the cock-up, but I'm sure they wouldn't have done it if the press hadn't pressured them."

Louis is getting over his initial disappointment and is acquainting himself with Ballack's footballing pedigree - as well as being taught some German phrases by his father.

A McDonald's spokeswoman apologised for any "misunderstanding" and said the retailer would try to make up for the disappointment. "The competition was for a variety of different matches," she said. "Louis's family ticked the box to be entered into the draw for all the matches, not just England games. It is still absolutely fantastic he is going to the World Cup."

Louis may even get to meet his hero after all, after McDonald's gave the family four tickets for the Community Shield match pitting Chelsea against Liverpool in August. Mr Harris said: "If Steven Gerrard is fit and well, then Louis has the opportunity to walk out with him there. That's a good olive branch, that's his dream."