Animal football soothsayers a growing breed

CHRIS LEHOURITES
Last updated 09:33 08/06/2012

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With a pig in Kiev, an elephant in Krakow and now, believe it or not, a ferret in Kharkiv, sports prognosticating has truly gone wild.

Two years after Paul the Octopus became a household name by correctly predicting eight matches at the World Cup in South Africa, several pretenders to the throne have cropped up in Poland and Ukraine, the co-hosts for the European Championship.

But they still have a lot to prove.

"As far as we are concerned, none have the form of Paul the Octopus," said Joe Crilly, a spokesman for British bookmaker William Hill. "And with so many to follow, there are undoubtedly going to be a few who get it wrong."

Undoubtedly is right. After all, following in the eight footsteps of Paul is no easy feat.

Paul the Octopus, who died a few months after the 2010 World Cup, lived at the Sea Life aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany. He correctly predicted the outcome of all seven of Germany's matches at the tournament in South Africa, as well as Spain's win over the Netherlands in the final, by plucking a mussel out of a plastic box bearing a national flag.

Fame and, one can assume, a fortune of mussels followed.

But for Euro 2012, there's no shortage of successors with animal instincts.

Citta the elephant, a temperamental 33-year-old female pachyderm from India, lives at a zoo in Krakow. She was chosen over a donkey, a parrot and another elephant after she correctly predicted that Chelsea would win the Champions League title.

On Wednesday, the Paul the Octopus-wannabe predicted that co-host Poland would beat Greece in the opening Euro 2012 match by choosing a melon marked Poland. She had a choice of others marked for Greece or for a draw.

In Kiev, a beer-loving pig named Khryak will be going under the spotlight Friday afternoon. He'll get a chance to make his first prediction only hours before the tournament kicks off in Warsaw at the National Stadium.

Fred the ferret is the newest kid on the block, but the professionals will be looking at all the all-seeing animals to see which one does the best.

"We will be keeping our eyes and ears open for any hint of a clairvoyant cat or telepathic trout," Crilly said.

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- AP

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