Paul the Octopus (hatched 2008, Weymouth, England) is an Octopus vulgaris blessed with psychic powers who rose to fame during the 2010 FIFA World Cup for his uncanny ability to predict the results of football matches involving Germany.
Paul's gift may well have earned him global respect, but he also acquired many enemies among the fans of teams his forecasts went against.
Paul, like other well-known and respected psychic Mystic Meg, was born in England. His keepers at the Sea Life Centre remarked that from a very early age he displayed incredible intelligence, which made him stand out from his 5,000 or so brothers.
Having demonstrated his aptitude by learning to retrieve food from boxes, Paul was transferred from the Sea Life centre to Oberhausen in Germany, his keeper's remarking:
"We'd like to have kept him here at Weymouth, but when an offer from Oberhausen came in it quickly became obvious that he had his heart set on bigger things than being looked at by tourists who mistook us for Sea World."
For some reason during Euro 2008, prior to each Germany game, Paul's owners decided to present him with two clear plastic boxes containing food. One container is marked with the flag of Germany, and the other with Germany's opponent. Paul's choice of food is determined to be his prediction for the game. Interestingly, Paul's owners didn't conceive the possibility that a game might actually end in a draw.
Having been written off by most pundits, Paul and the Germans surprised everyone with their performances in the run to finals, both having an 80% success rate. However, the weight of expectation clearly got too much for the young octoped and his prediction for the final was proven wrong.
FIFA World Cup 2010Edit
Paul returned for the tournament in 2010, but gathered far more media attention this time around. Some of this attention had clearly gone to his head, with his list of demands including:
- food in boxes to be upgraded from mussels to oysters.
- private dressing room, containing no red furniture.
- a HD television to watch the games on - but with the volume to be muted during games so he wasn't distracted by the tedium of the vuvuzelas.
Nevertheless, his predictions stayed spot on and Paul predicted the result of every Germany game correctly, even their surprise loss to Serbia in the group stages and eventual elimination by Spain.
After Germany's 4-0 win over Argentina, many Argentines were enraged, but rather than venting their anger at their fat and incompetent manager or consider that they might not have even been in the game if it hadn't been for some glaring refereeing errors, they understandably chose to blame Paul the Octopus. Argentine chef Nicolas Bedorrou even posted an Octopus recipe to Paul, his rage clearly blinding him to the fact that Paul's abilities do not extend to being able to read Spanish.
Even Paul's fellow Germans turned against him after he correctly predicted their World Cup exit to Spain. After Carles Puyol's 73rd minute header put the Spanish ahead, Jonathan Pearce casually remarked "Oh dear, the Germans are going to make calamari out of Paul now." Mark Lawrenson quickly pointed out that calamari is in fact a squid dish and spent the rest of the game listing out differences between a squid and an octopus in a dull monotone.
Many have sought to discredit Paul's ability as a south-sayer. Valid arguments include that:
- Paul generally does tend to predict victory for the Germans and that the Germans do usually win football matches.
- Statistically, Paul's predictions could be nothing more than a run of luck, like you get when you toss a coin some times.
- Paul may be the reincarnation of Nostradamus.
Invalid arguments include:
- Paul's predictions tending to favour the most likely team to win the game. While past form would be a useful indicator to most human observers, this fails to consider the fact that Paul the Octopus is, by definition, an octopus and in all likelyhood is unable to comprehend the intricacies of the FIFA World Rankings or the effect of altitude on the players or the impact of the Jabulani ball.
Some observers, particularly in Argentina, have suggested that rather than predicting the future, Paul's actions are actually influencing the future. It's unclear why an octopus with the power of omnipotence would use such a gift to influence the results of football matches rather than, for example, ending World hunger or even freeing himself from captivity. Then again, fans and players will often suggest that the oft-capricious deity God is guilty of the exact same thing, so who knows.
Paul's future looks positive, being one of the few stars of the tournament to actually come close to performing to their full potential. Career offers have included:
- market-maker at Betfair
- stock-market trader for Goldman Sachs
- goal-line official at World Cup games