In Praise of Paul

I had promised myself at the beginning of the World Cup that I would refrain from mentioning it here - even though I become completely and hopelessly obsessed with this greatest of all sporting events every four years - since it has nothing to do with theatre or writing (notwithstanding the theatrical antics of players who claim to have been fouled in the most brutal way, writhing in agony on the pitch for several minutes, before getting up and running around again once they realize their performance failed to convince the ref).

And I have done very well at keeping that promise…until now. Until, that is, I learned of Paul. If you haven’t heard of Paul by now, then you must not have been following the news very closely. Paul is an octopus. A psychic octopus who has proven to have extraordinary powers of prediction when it comes to international football matches. Paul lives in Germany (at the Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen to be precise), and achieved a degree of fame in that country when he successfully predicted the outcome of four out of six of Germany’s matches in the Euro 2008 tournament. Not such a big deal in itself, you might say. But then came the 2010 World Cup, where Paul has accurately predicted every one of Germany’s games, from the group stages to the knockout rounds, and has now shot to international stardom. His predictions are now televised live on many channels in many countries, and his celebrity status is off the charts. He has made two more predictions for this weekend – today’s playoff game between Germany and Uruguay, and the final tomorrow between Spain and Holland – but whether or not his final two divinations prove correct (and I’m actually hoping they’re not), he will have already become an indisputable star and forever remembered for his fascinating contributions to this historic event.

Paul, like me, was born in the South West of England (in the same seaside town that I spent all of my childhood holidays at). Paul, also like me, now calls another country home. And Paul, again like me, has an all-consuming interest in international football tournaments. It’s quite uncanny how much we have in common now that I think about it. True, he has more limbs than I do and can remain underwater for much longer periods, but on balance I think we’re more alike than dissimilar. Professionally, though, I have to go by “Andrew Biss”, whereas he, like Cher and Madonna, etc., can simply go by “Paul”.

So, Paul, thank you. Life is much more interesting with you in it. And I promise I will honor you by including you in one of my plays in the near future. Oh, and sorry for all the grilled octopus I’ve eaten in my life…I’m different now.

P.S: A big thank you to my German friend, Inga, who first brought Paul to my attention (shortly before he became an AP Newswire sensation!)


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