Youssef Bassal's heart swelled with pride when he draped an enormous German flag on the building where he runs a cell phone store in support of the World Cup team.
So the Lebanese immigrant was stunned when German leftist groups tore down the 100-square-meter (1000-square-foot) flag — not just once, but twice.
"I don't understand them at all — every American or Frenchman would be proud to show their flag and root for their football team," the 39-year-old said at his store in a neighbourhood that's home to many Arab immigrants.
"It's not like there's still a swastika on Germany's flag." It's a paradox rooted in Europe's multicultural world: Immigrants are rallying around Germany's diverse football team that includes players with roots in Turkey, Ghana, Poland, Tunisia and other countries. But 65 years after the end of World War II, some Germans are still adamantly against any expression of national pride and feel uneasy about cheering "Deutschland, Deutschland" during a World Cup match.
Of course there are millions of Germans, especially from the younger generation, who don't hesitate to paint their faces with the German tricolour on game day. But strikingly, such overt expressions of national pride only appeared widely in the country when it hosted the World Cup four years ago.
At this World Cup, what has caught the eye is that Berlin's immigrant neighbourhoods like Neukoelln, Wedding or Kreuzberg sport many more black-red-golden flags on cars, balconies and store fronts than more traditionally German quarters like Mitte or Prenzlauer Berg.
That's largely because this year's team — a bit like the French squad that won the World Cup in 1998 — seems like a celebration of the nation's multiethnic modern-day makeup. The team of 23 includes 11 players with a variety of immigrant roots.
"Our team is a successful mix," Khedira had said recently. "We are playing with typical Mediterranean ease, but also have a very strong discipline."