Omair Alavi|Published May 13, 2018
Achilles the Cat, the 2018 Fifa World Cup soothsayer
This is the year of the FIFA World Cup. With the mega event just a month away, who will lift the trophy, is something on everyone’s mind. Some people base their predictions on statistics, others on the ‘surprise factor’ and many on the basis of their patriotism. And then there are others who neither look at the stats nor do they consider the surprise factor because they are not human beings. Yes, I am talking about the animals who become a rage during certain mega sporting events. Their supposed psychic power has helped them predict the winner before a match has been played and, in some cases, even before the tournament itself. Let’s have a look at some of those who made a name for themselves and also the countries they coincidentally supported.
PAUL THE OCTOPUS
It all started with Paul the Octopus, who correctly predicted the winners of the Euro 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, thus making people believe that he had ‘special knowledge’. His success gave way to many other animals to come forward with their talent but Paul had the last laugh. His technique to predict the winner was simple and interesting, as he was made to choose from two boxes, each marked with the flag of one of the two competing football teams. He warmed up with six out of eight correct guesses for Euro 2008 and then got all eight guesses right during the FIFA World Cup 2010. The whole world covered this animal whose prediction rate of 85 percent still remains undefeated. Paul died in 2010 but his legacy continues through other animals like him.
MANI THE PARAKEET
Mani the Parakeet wrongly favours the Netherlands
Parrots are famous for two things: fortune-telling and imitating sounds. But Mani the Parakeet made East Asia proud by coming out of his cage to predict results of football matches. In what can be termed as a simplified form of cartomancy (fortune-telling cards), Mani was one of the first animals to predict all the quarter-final ties of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He even predicted the Spain-Germany semi-final and the Netherlands-Spain final. Mani’s popularity increased rapidly and his owner, who used to get hardly 10 visitors a day, ended up entertaining 10 an hour during that time. But then his celebrity status in his country of residence, Singapore, took a huge hit when he predicted the Netherlands as the winner of the semi-final and Paul’s prediction of Spain as the eventual winner came true.
Predicting results of sport matches is not just the domain of human beings and statistics. Some animals do that as well. Eos takes a look at some animals who made a name for themselves as psychic visionaries …
BIG HEAD THE TURTLE
Who would have thought that Brazil would become famous for a turtle ahead of the World Cup opening match in 2014? That Brazilian turtle predicted that his home team will beat Croatia in the World Cup opener by choosing the fish hanging from the Brazilian flag instead of the Croatian one, completely ignoring the football in the middle, which would have meant that the match would end in a draw. It wasn’t that difficult to predict, considering Brazil was a much better team, but try telling that to the turtle who chose the flag close to his heart.
CITTA THE ELEPHANT
With a huge body came huge responsibility for Citta the Elephant, who came to the fore two years after Paul the Octopus’ passing. Predicting matches in the Euro 2012 from the Krakow Zoo, her trick was to eat the melon perched above the team flags and most of the time she ate the right one!
NELLY THE ELEPHANT
And then there was baby elephant Nelly, who accurately predicted the results during three major football events. She got it right during the FIFA World Cup in 2010, followed it up with Euro 2012 and also got it right ahead of the Champions League final a year later, along with the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Her modus operandi was a treat to watch as well, as she would kick the football in the goal marked with the flag of the country she knew would win.
JEMMA THE PSYCHIC RACCOON
Since the 2018 FIFA World Cup is taking place in Russia, let’s talk about the Russian genius who made the 2012 Summer Olympics more colourful with her picks. Jemma was presented with four buns to eat, each marked with a potential winner and she picked the ‘Chinese bun’, clearly sending a message that China will win the most medals in the event. She missed it by a whisker as the Chinese athletes came second. However, the same year she accurately picked Spain to win Euro 2012.
EMMA THE SEA OTTER
The event that made Emma the sea otter popular was NCAA Basketball. Residing in the New Orleans’ Audubon Aquarium, Emma’s prediction technique featured her throwing a mini football into one of the two buckets presented to her. In her most famous year, 2012, she accurately predicted the winner of the NCAA Final Four and earned her place in history. She passed away in 2016.
JAGGU OF LAHORE ZOO
Pakistan has also not been behind in the prediction game. If they had Paul, Mani, Big Head, Citta, Nelly, Jemma and Emma … we had Jaggu the Eagle who predicted a difficult one that irked the Indians. Yes, last year ahead of the final of the ICC Champions Trophy, Jaggu flew over to the Pakistan flag, completely ignoring the Indian one to pick the winner. Incidentally, it was Sarfraz Ahmed’s team that stopped the unstoppable India in the grand finale to become the champions; and they must thank Jaggu for boosting their morale.
A BABOON AND A PIGEON
When talking about sports, you can’t forget the biggest event in Pakistan, the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Ahead of the grand finale earlier this year, a baboon in Bahawalpur, Punjab, predicted Islamabad as the winner by choosing the red United shirt over Zalmi’s yellow. A pigeon in Ghotki, Sindh also flew to the red in front of her. Their owners were beyond ecstatic after their predictions came true.
SHAHEEN THE CAMEL
There were many animals whose reputations fell prey to Paul’s brilliance and Shaheen the Camel from the United Arab Emirates was one of them. Despite predicting 19 out of the 29 picks correctly during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the camel was unable to break Paul’s record, because after all, Paul’s 85 percent success rate was better than Shaheen’s 66. The technique used by this Emirati dromedary was equally interesting. It picked the winner from the flags set in front of it using its teeth, with a football in between for a draw or no result. Most of the time, Shaheen picked the right flag.
ACHILLES THE CAT
He may be deaf, but Achilles the cat, a resident of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia, is believed to have psychic powers. He will be seen forecasting the results of the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup, to be held in cities across Russia from June 14 to July 15. The feline’s original job description at the museum was catching mice, but after successfully forecasting the outcome of four Championship Cup matches, he is now seen as an exceptionally visionary cat.
The writer tweets @omair78
Published in Dawn, EOS, May 13th, 2018