How to hoax the international sports media with nothing more than a red circle

School photo

Who is this man? It’s not Manuel Neuer. And yes, that caption is worth a separate post all of its own.

After just seven minutes of the match with Arsenal, Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer was already a hero: he had just saved a penalty from Mesut Ozil.

But Reddit user Vikistormborn was curious about what the commentator described as their “long” history, and started searching for details on Ozil’s childhood. And after finding this image on a Telegraph story, he or she decided to have a little fun…

The original image of Mesut Ozil's youth team before the red circles were added

“I simply circled the other biggest looking guy in the picture and tweeted that it was Neuer,” he writes.

@MesutOzil1088  and @Manuel_Neuer have known each other for quite some time. #UCL #AFC #FCB pic.twitter.com/b6y1HrvVrB

BBC mesut ozil neuer hoax

The BBC mentioned the apocryphal childhood relationship of the two players in their report

That one tweet was enough for news organisations ranging from The Guardian, The Sun and BBC, to Yahoo! SportTiroLibre, and 101GreatGoals.com, who all either printed the image or referred to the newly minted factoid.

It was not true. According to various biographies, Neuer had played for Schalke since the age of 5 – not Ozil’s Westfalia.

Manuel Neuer's Facebook update of the image - later deleted

Manuel Neuer’s Facebook update of the image – later deleted

Bizarrely, Manuel Neuer’s own Facebook page also published the image for a couple of hours, according to T-Mobile’s German sports news website – enough time to amass 30,000 likes before it was deleted.

One Reddit user pointed out that the error may have been compounded because the page was not maintained by the player himself, but by his management.

And this final detail is what makes the whole affair particularly fascinating: because a celebrity Facebook page or Twitter account may well be best treated as just another publishing operation, not a direct line to the person in the avatar.

A 5 second scepticism check (is it too good to be true? Yes), and a 10 second check on Google Images’ search by image option, would have brought up the following results to start a factchecking process.

Some of the results brought up by using Google Images' search by image tool

Some of the results brought up by using Google Images’ search by image tool

With thanks to @KHeneage for pointing me to the Reddit thread. Also available: Brett Leppard’s take and The Daily Dot. UPDATE: Meedan’s Checkdesk liveblog have also started digging into the hoax.

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