By Erik Kirschbaum, Reuters
BERLIN, Tue Jul 6, 2010 10:22am EDT
Two year-old octopus Paul, the so-called ”octopus oracle” predicts Spain’s victory in their 2010 World Cup semi-final soccer match against Germany by choosing a mussel, from a glass box decorated with the Spanish national flag instead of a glass box with the German flag, at the Sea Life Aquarium in the western German city of Oberhausen July 6, 2010. Paul has correctly picked the winner of Germany’s five World Cup results so far. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany was in a state of shock on Tuesday after their “oracle octopus” Paul picked Spain to win the World Cup semi-final match against Germany in South Africa on Wednesday.
Not an ordinarily superstitious people, Germans have become believers in Paul’s possible psychic powers.
“This is not a good omen,” wrote Bild newspaper’s online edition after the news of Paul’s pick flashed across Germany.
The octopus has turned into an international celebrity after accurately picking the winner of all five German World Cup matches to date — including their 1-0 loss to Serbia.
Two national networks interrupted their programing on Tuesday for live coverage of Paul’s latest forecast, and groans of disappointment rang out across Germany after Paul went for a container with a morsel of food in it bearing the Spanish flag.
“We were all a little bit shocked when Paul picked Spain,” said Tanja Munzig, a spokeswoman for Sea Life in Oberhausen. “To err is not only human — animals can also make mistakes. Let’s hope Paul got this one wrong.”
The octopus, considered by some to be the most intelligent of all invertebrates, was again given the choice of picking food from two different transparent containers lowered into his tank — one with a German flag on it and one with a Spanish.
The container Paul opens first is regarded as his pick for the match. Paul first put his tentacles around the German container before moving to his left to the Spanish box — first opening the lid and then snatching the morsel of food inside.
Germans stunned by Paul’s decision to pick Spain took consolation in the fact that Paul got one of his five picks wrong at the Euro in 2008. Oddly enough it also involved Spain: In the final Paul picked Germany over Spain. But Spain won 1-0.
It was Paul’s only inaccurate pick of that tournament. He has never been wrong since and has an overall record of 9-1.
“Maybe Paul was just trying to give Spain a false sense of security,” said Munzig, who said scores of journalists were at Sea Life to witness Paul’s latest pick. Thousands of people have visited Sea Life to see Germany’s newest celebrity.
“To be honest I’m going to have butterflies in my stomach watching the Spain match,” she added. “I’m not a superstitious person but he’s had an incredible winning streak so far.”
Paul was born in England. He has been five for five at the World Cup. He picked Germany wins over Australia, Ghana, England and Argentina — as well as their Group D loss to Serbia.
Media attention over Paul’s picks in Germany and abroad has grown with each pick and some commentators have even wondered aloud whether his uncanny run might even be having an influence on superstitious players.
Paul’s winning streak may have contributed to a growing superstition among the Germany team.
Germany coach Joachim Loew admitted he will not wash a favorite blue sweater as long as his team keeps winning. Loew said he bowed to pressure from other coaching staff and players to keep wearing the sweater for their matches.
Every time Loew wore the blue V-neck sweater Germany scored four goals. “I am not even allowed to wash it now and I think I will wear it again (against Spain),” Loew said on Monday.
(Additional reporting by Brian Rohan and Reuters Television. Editing by Jon Bramley and Paul Casciato)