Animal Instincts off the Football Field

Published: 21st June 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st June 2014 01:01 AM   |  A+A-

In Tamil Nadu, parrots are used as assistants to astrologers. Kili josiam (parrot astrology) is ubiquitous here. The astrologer spreads a mat under a tree near a temple or where people congregate. On the mat, tarot-like cards are stacked up. When a person wants to be foretold of his future for a price, a caged parrot is set free to pick a card from the stack. The foreteller interprets the chosen card. It is usually, “You will get good news from the north” or “You will achieve your heart’s desire with God’s grace”. Simpletons swallow whatever is prophesied and leave with hope in their hearts.

A parakeet named Mani made his predictions using a simplified form of cartomancy. Mani became a celebrity in Singapore, and later internationally, when he picked the correct winners for all of the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarter-final ties, as well as the Spain-Germany semi-final.

Now, Nelly the elephant is predicting the result in 2014 FIFA World Cup matches. Nelly is based at the Hanover’s Serengeti Park in Germany. The pachyderm picks the winner by kicking a soccer ball into one of two goals that are marked with the flags of the competing countries.

Nelly’s record is 30 for 33 in picks for the 2006 Women’s World Cup, the 2010 World Cup and the Euro 2012.

Paul the Octopus’ score was 11 for 14 during the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008. Paul lived in a tank at a Sea Life Centre in Germany and died in October 2010. He was used as an oracle to predict the results of football matches in which Germany played. The octopus was presented with two boxes containing food, each marked with the flag of a national team in an upcoming match. He chose the box with the flag of the winning team in all seven of Germany’s matches in the 2010 World Cup. He favoured Spain in the semi-final against Germany and correctly predicted a win for Spain against the Netherlands in the World Cup final on July 11, 2010.

German fans called for Paul to be cooked and eaten while the Spanish prime minister offered to send Paul official state protection or safe haven in Spain.

Otters, pigs and turtles are also predicting the results of the ongoing World Cup 2014. Talking of soothsayers, the Black Pearl, Pele is the worst. The Brazilian footballer scored a total of 1,281 goals in his career. The legendary player’s lack of talent for accurate predictions was noticed at 1994 World Cup. Pele predicted Colombia as one of the favourites. Colombia did not reach the round of 16 and Brazil won the title. Colombia requested Pele not to mention its team as a favourite in the current World Cup. Before the 2002 World Cup, he predicted that France and Argentina would reach the final. Both were eliminated in the first round. For the 2014 World Cup, he has predicted Brazil to reach the final. This has left the Brazilians worried in the light of his many slip-ups as oracle.

We have to wait till July 14 to know whether a man or a denizen of the jungle will take the credit for being the most accurate clairvoyant off the football field.

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