Cleese says end bigotry and don't mention the war

British actor John Cleese has finally appeased the Germans, more than 30 years after his goose-stepping performance in the famous 13-episode Fawlty Towers television series. Unlike his alter ego Basil Fawlty, the actor is a keen Germanophile, The Times of London revealed, and is playing a prominent role in three projects to encourage a World Cup free from xenophobia and bigotry. These include sponsoring a children's essay-writing competition called But Don't Mention the War, contributing a matching World Cup anthem and starring in a comedy football film for German television.

The song tackles more delicate territory than England's official World Cup ditty, World at Your Feet, by Embrace. which calls on football fans to concentrate on the game and abandon outdated prejudices, even if the Germans "bombed our chip shop 60 years ago".

Cleese, 66, has joins a host of famous names from the fields of politics, sport and the arts in The Art of Football, From A-Z, a lighthearted documentary for German viewers. Appearing alongside a German comic, he performs sketches inspired by the "humour, history and general strangeness of the world's most popular game". Rock singer Bono, Brazilian football star Ronaldo, former German player Franz Beckenbauer, former South African president Nelson Mandela and German author Gunter Grass also contribute to the film, endorsed by football's ruling body, FIFA.

Cleese said: "I'm delighted to help with trying to break down the ridiculous anti-German prejudices of the tabloids and clowns like Basil Fawlty, who are pathetically stuck in a world view that's more than half a century out of date." Cleese has always maintained that the notorious sixth episode of Fawlty Towers, which saw Basil goose-stepping round the dining room, ridiculed a certain type of Briton's refusal to forget World War II, not the German characters themselves.

In Britain, however, a football supporters group said it was confident that citizens of World Cup host Germany won't get offended if they hear English fans singing about World War II, Associated Press reported.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson has asked England fans not to sing football chants that reference the "The Dam Busters'', a 1954 film based on real-life incidents of British planes bombing Nazi Party-controlled Germany's industrial districts during the war. Eriksson said supporters should be "respectful ambassadors'' during the tournament and refrain from singing such songs. "Singing the 'Dam Busters' tune or '10 German bombers' is not illegal so you won't be arrested,'' said Kevin Miles, international co-ordinator of the Football Supporters' Federation. "What is illegal is anything that glorifies the Third Reich. Nazi salutes are illegal and, in my view rightly, so. If anything, these songs glorify the victory over fascism.''

Miles said how the songs were received depended on where they were sung. "Sven's point is that if you want to be received warmly by your hosts you should make an effort not to upset people and that way you will make a lot of friends," he said. "So if you sing the songs at a football ground, the Germans are likely to regard it as just part of the occasion. In the town square on a Friday night it might be different, however."

German police, have reportedly identified local neo-Nazis as a security threat to the conduct of the World Cup because of their sympathies with policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. "Extremist protests are aimed in part at expressing support for Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iranian president, who caused outrage last year by calling for Israel's abolition and by denying the Holocaust, according to intelligence officials," The Financial Times reported. "German security officials ... admitted that special security measures were being taken for the Iranian soccer team."

See also: Mature England-German review of one World Cup (18 Apr)