Paul the Octopus of World Cup Fame Has Died

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But Paul's uncanny accuracy wasn't the only reason for his fame. The lack of excitement in many of the matches also played a part. Every World Cup needs its heroes, and South Africa 2010 came up short in this respect. Many of the stars that had been predicted to dominate the tournament, such as Rooney and Messi, failed to shine.

Germany sparkled with two stunning victories over England and Argentina, but those matches were the exception in a string of clashes marred by poor and unimaginative passing, some appalling referee errors and, in the case of Sunday's final, by relentless fouling. Not to mention the drone of Vuvuzelas.

So Paul offered a welcome distraction. His success rate enabled him to brush aside competition from other animals chosen to rival his predictive powers during the tournament, for example a chimpanzee called "Pino" in an Estonian zoo, a parakeet called Mani in Singapore, or a crocodile called Harry in Australia.

Attempts to find a scientific explanation for Paul's choices have come to nothing. A Russian biologist, Vyacheslav Bisikov, suggested that he might have been attracted to boxes that displayed flags made up of stripes. But that doesn't explain how he distinguished between two boxes with striped flags, such as Spain and the Netherlands. Besides, octopuses are believed to be color blind, which precludes the explanation that he picked the brightest flags.

Germany's leading octopus researcher, Volker Miske, said Paul may have been making his choices based on the size of the mussel in the box, or the ease with which the box could be opened, or traces of mussel flavor on the outside of the box. It is clear, however, that Paul was highly intelligent. Apart from being a soothsayer, he was an expert at unscrewing the lids off jars.

Before the World Cup, Paul's powers were already known in Germany because he had correctly predicted four out of Germany's five matches in the 2008 European Championship. But his clean sheet this year has made him immortal.

He helped to make the World Cup memorable. Just like everyone will remember the 2006 tournament in Germany for Zinedine Zidane's astounding head butt, and the 1986 one in Mexico for Maradona's "Hand of God" goal against England, South Africa will forever be associated with an octopus.

If he really was born in 2008, then Paul was nearing the end of his natural life. Octopuses only live three years on average and he was never going to be around for the next European Championship in 2012, let alone the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

But here is some comfort for football fans. "Behind the scenes, a young Paul is already acclimatizing himself, he was meant to be trained by Paul the First in the coming weeks," aquarium officials said.

Fellow sea creatures will also benefit from his immortality in future. Oberhausen said it plans to donate some of its income from the sale of commercial rights relating to Paul -- he adorns a clothes brand and adverts for a supermarket chain, for example -- to help finance a rescue station for endangered turtles on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

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