Berlin is not a football city, not in the way Hamburg, Munich and the Ruhr towns are. As such it is more like Paris than Rome or London. But it has fallen in love with the Weltmeisterschaft. Boards advertising "WM fussball, LIVE" are outside every bar and café. I have watched games in the street outside a fire station, at an artificial beach, at a converted brewery, on the Fan Mile outside the Brandenberg Gate and in the courtyard which links the marvels of Potsdamer Platz and which has been turned into a temporary TV studio.
Yesterday I was in the Pfefferberg Sommergarten, a leafy venue in Prenzlauer Berg, a fashionable part of former East Berlin. Lined up in front of the big screen, drinking beer and eating Bratwurst, were predominantly Germans. The spot-kicks revealed many sympathetic to Portugal, but just as many, supplemented by the smattering of Englishmen, backed Sven Goran Eriksson's team.
"People might not believe it at home, but people here like the English, it's the Dutch they don't like," said Ben Mott-Heath, a 42-year-old carpenter from Falmouth who has lived in Berlin for nine years. Visual confirmation came from the sight of a German TV crew interviewing a fan wearing an England shirt, circa 1998, only to realise he was German.
Further Anglophilia came from Carsten Schulze, 40, a landscape gardener, who said: "I'm supporting England. I like England. I've been to Scotland several times. I've no connections with Portugal."
Manuela Venzel, a law student, said: "I want England to win because I want a Germany v England final. I only watch the World Cup and European Championship. And it is better to see it like this, on the big screens with friends, because then you can ignore the adverts and all the talk before the game and at half-time. That is for stupid people. Before one game they even interviewed the German team's baker."
Schulze added: "I'm not interested in football, but my girlfriend likes it and we like seeing the WM games. But I do not like all the commercialism. I hate Franz Beckenbauer. But when I was eight, and we won the WM in 1974, I loved him."
English supporters have been rare in the capital. This is primarily because none of England's games have been played within 275 miles. Thus the smattering of English fans around me, few wearing replica shirts, were either expats like Mott-Heath, students, tourists or those who are more interested in watching the World Cup in general than England in particular.
"I've not done much work in the past month," Mott-Heath said. "I think living here I do feel more committed to England than I would be if I was at home. Being English is in the blood and at times like this you really feel it."
Nearby were French and Brazilian fans, and some from long-departed teams like Croatia. It was hard to remember that when West Germany hosted the World Cup in 1974 people living in these streets were unable to attend. A couple of streets away were buildings still pockmarked with bullet-holes from the Russian entry into Berlin in 1945. Preserved remnants of the Wall are also close by.
In the sunshine the right side of the screen was not easy to see, and now and again Joe Cole or Luis Figo would disappear into the whiteout and the English were left to interpret the German commentary. There was no need for translation, however, when Wayne Rooney was dismissed. There was a groan when the red card was raised, and a groan of a different kind from the men in the audience when the replay revealed why.Reuse content