World Cup predictors: The Octopus And The Bblack Pigs of Atiavi

There were many sideshows around the world that enlivened the last World Cup in South Africa. There was, for instance, a certain Octopus Paul residing in the German city of Oberhausen that held the world spellbound with the accuracy with which it predicted the results of matches. Paul scored eight out of the eight final elimination matches.

For Brazil 2014, a team of baby pandas from Sichuan in China have been selected to be official diviners. Unlike Octopus Paul in 2010, a baby panda will climb a pole on which is hoisted the flag of the would-be winner.


Since South Africa 2010, several theories have been proffered by many people for Octopus Paul’s feat. One of them, incidentally, was Mr Frazier who did a very diligent research, reviewing all that have been said by scientists about the relationship between the octopus brain and the surrounding colours. He came out with his own conclusions.

In an article, titled, “So long, Octopus Paul,” published by the Daily Graphic of November 6, 2010, Mr Frazier attributed Octopus Paul’s ability to predict match results to the retentive memory for colours to which the crustacean has been exposed for several hours. Once this combination of colours (as in a national flag) has registered on the brain of the octopus, the impression stays for 24 hours to the exclusion of any other colours.

The pundits

Mr Frazier explained that the real predictors of matches were soccer pundits, human specialists who would analyse the two teams due for battle and choose the one likely to win.

If Ghana has been picked as the one likely to win their opening match with the USA, then Octopus’ managers would put food in a closed glass box with the colours of the Ghana flag painted on the side. They would allow a starving Paul to attempt frantically and unsuccessfully to eat this food and thereby get exposed to the colours of the Ghana flag.

Working on the theory of retentive memory for an object to the exclusion of all other objects, the managers of Paul would display two open glass boxes with similar food; one bearing the Ghana flag and the other the US flag, and the starving crustacean allowed to choose from the two.

With the colours of the Ghana flag firmly registered on its mind, it would go for the food in the Ghana box. Thus if the pundits made the wrong choice of the likely winning team, Octopus Paul too would get it wrong. So, baby pandas, beware. If the punters get it consistently wrong, the pandas would be a huge flop in Brazil.


Beside the pundits getting it wrong, there could be the dilemma arising from near-similarity of colours of the flags of opposing teams. Mr Frazier would have loved to see how Octopus Paul could predict a match between Ghana and Mali.

But all said, pure chance or luck seems the most plausible explanation for use of these creatures to predict the outcome of competitions. Even with humans as predictors, it is still down to the two factors.

Digital predictors

Recently, Mr Frazier chanced upon an interactive digital predictor chart in the Daily Telegraph of the UK featuring all the World Cup matches. This chart would enable readers to pick the likely winner of Brazil 2014. Taking the route of neither Octopus Paul nor the hedonic treadmill, but that of spontaneous response (without thinking through the alternative answers), Mr Frazier was astounded by the outcome of his own predictions.

Group G, is decided as follows:

Portugal: 7 points with a goal difference of +5

Ghana: 4 points with a goal difference of zero

Germany: 4 points with a goal difference of -1

USA: 1 point with a goal difference of -4. Germany and USA, therefore, stand eliminated, while Portugal and Ghana proceed to the next stage.

There are other shocking results such as Brazil eliminated in the quarter final and Uruguay proceeding to the Grand final. Mr Frazier is saving the other results for whoever is prepared to sponsor him to Brazil 2014.

Pigs of Atiavi

By the way, has anyone ever thought of restricting to a pen the black pigs of Mr Frazier’s village, Atiavi, which is by the Keta Lagoon? If one is prepared to discount the luck factor, the squealing and grunting beasts gifted with an acute sense of smell might be trained to predict world cup matches.

Fenced in and deployed that way, they would offer an immense source of tourist attraction than causing incessant mess to the beautiful waterfront environment when they roam at will as they do at present.