Never in the history of World Cup soccer has a “player” made world TV and newspaper headlines as has Paul the psychic octopus. We nominate him for the Golden Ball Award for being the most on-the-ball player of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, having correctly predicted Germany’s four wins and two losses.
Paul lives in an aquarium in Oberhausen in Germany, but is British-born. He started duty in the UEFA Cup final in 2008, but made an error when he predicted that Germany would win against Spain. He was a little known player then, especially due to his incorrect prediction. But since the start of the 2010 World Cup he has been spot-on with the results of each match, predicting Germany’s wins over Australia, Ghana, England and Argentina, and its losses against Serbia and Spain.
All eyes will be on Paul as he predicts Germany to take 3rd place against Uruguay in Port Elizabeth today. He has also bravely stepped out of his league in predicting the winner of the World Cup Final to be Spain, in its match against Netherlands tomorrow.
Poor Paul is being heavily taxed, in that he is now being asked to predict all sorts of other things, such as whether German coach Joachim Loew will renew his contract.
Paul has become such a talked-about VIP that he has his own Twitter page now (@PPsychicOctopus), and boy can he Tweet non-stop, usually putting some “biped” down when he/she make comments he does not like, and just in general, when he feels like it. He is a cheeky opinionated chap! He attracted 422 followers in just 2 days, and is hoping for 1000 by tomorrow. He picks up almost every mention about himself on Twitter, and then replies to it. He has been featured on CNN, ZDF, BBC and SkyNews, and made the front page of the Cape Times and Germany’s Bild, and no doubt many more international and local newspapers.
While I am having fun, I am awarding some other unofficial 2010 World Cup awards:
Goldie Locks Award: goes to Diego Forlan of Uruguay, who has beautiful blond hair kept in place with a blue aliceband, and has the most beautiful blue eyes, for sure the most beautiful soccer player in the World Cup (on the other hand, Wayne Rooney has already been selected by the media as the ‘ugliest’ player of the soccer tournament)
Golden Trend Award: Cristiano Ronaldo receives this award, for his black nailpolished toes, as seen on German TV station ZDF yesterday
Golden Coach Award: superstitious German coach Joachim Loew wearing his beautiful blue jersey at every match in which Germany played, and refusing to wash it to not break the luck of his team, that is until it lost against Spain this week. He was by far the best looking coach of all teams.
Golden Moneybags Award without a doubt goes to FIFA and its President Sepp Blatter, for taking all its money out of South Africa, untaxed as per its contract with the South African government, especially all the MATCH booking monies. Ticket sales will have largely been received by credit card in Switzerland anyway.
Golden Service Award goes to the 25 000 or so volunteers at 10 stadiums and at the Fan Parks in Host Cities, as well as at airports and FIFA-designated hotels, who worked for a pittance of R 100 per day, irrespective of how long their working hours were. Volunteers were specifically forced to sign away their rights to protection under South Africa’s labour legislation, such is the power of FIFA! Volunteers were not even allowed to receive a copy of their 4-page contract. Volunteers were the machine that made the running of the World Cup smooth and largely incident-free, in offering Spectator Services, Language Support, Transportation, Accreditation, Hospitality, IT and Telecommunications, and many more services to make the World Cup happen. The ridiculously low “stipend” has to be taxed, at least 30 % being deducted, even for the meal allowance when it was first paid into the bank, while FIFA patted itself on the back for its 25 % increase in its media and marketing income for this World Cup, and announcing that millions of dollars will be paid to Football Associations and its executive.
Golden Aches Award goes to the World Cup Local Organising Committee (LOC), for forcing its 25 000 volunteers around the country to spend half of their R 120 daily meal allowance at a McDonald’s close by, for the past 40 days. The Green Point branch, which is right at the Stadium, made a fortune from the Cape Town LOC for daily vouchers to the value of R 60 – it could easily be R2 million – out of a blind loyalty to the fast food company’s sponsorship of the World Cup.
Golden Handcuff Award goes to the S A Police Services for safeguarding South Africa and the soccer fans, and for taking over the security services when Stallion Security staff striked in Cape Town and in Durban at the start of the World Cup. They were patient, dedicated and worked in the pouring rain in Cape Town at three of the matches, and in cold winter conditions for the other five matches, as well as on non-match days, checking bags and other belongings, keeping everyone inside the Stadium safe.
Golden Key Award goes to FIFA and the LOC, for forbidding its volunteers to criticise the two bodies whilst they were on duty, as per the volunteer contract. What they did not understand was the power of word-of-mouth, aggrieved volunteers talking to each other and posting comments on the Cape Town Volunteers blog www.ctvolunteers2010.wordpress.com. E-mails were sent to other volunteers, and one even approached the Weekend Argus about the McDonald’s forced-diet, that uniforms were not supplied to all volunteers in the 5 weeks of them doing duty, prejudicing some in not working inside the stadiums and therefore not seeing all the matches, and that transport problems meant that volunteers stood in the rain and cold waiting for transportation to take them home after matches.
Golden “Gees” Award goes to all South Africans, who become ‘Proudly South African’ in the past month, becoming soccer fans (who was it that said that ‘White’ South Africans do not support soccer and do not watch local matches?) in addition to loving rugby; who went to watch the Stormers and the Blue Bulls play at Orlando Stadium in Soweto (I mean, have you ever?!) and loved the “gees” there just a short while prior to the start of the World Cup; for walking the Fan Walk (153 000 in Cape Town last Saturday alone) and calling for the Fan Walk to become a permanent feature, locals requesting Capetonians to walk it once a month; for the loyal support for Bafana Bafana, a team we scorned and mocked prior to the World Cup, but who did us proud; and made us proud Africans, supporting BaGhana BaGhana when this was the last African team left in the tournament.
Golden Liquid Award goes to the beer producers and all the staff at pubs and restaurants around the country who made sure that soccer fans remained liquid, either to celebrate or commiserate their teams’ performance! Vaughn Johnson’s Wine Shop sold 10 000 beer cans in the 4 hours prior to the England versus Algeria match in Cape Town, he says.
Golden Balls-Up Award goes to ACSA Durban for damaging the image of the country when flights bringing German and Spain fans to Durban on Tuesday after the match had finished, due to a congestion of aeroplanes at the new King Shaka airport in the city, reportedly due to private jets clogging up the parking bays and refusing to move their planes, the FIFA one being one of them! Not surprisingly FIFA and the LOC have distanced themselves from any responsibility for this mess-up.
Golden Fans Award goes to all the wonderful soccer fans, both local and international, that became infected with the “gees” of the World Cup, who got to endure the vuvuzelas and even bought their own, for dressing up in wigs, painting their faces, and proudly wearing their country’s flags – I can see a whole new fashion trend in proudly-South African colours. They brought their dollars, pounds and Euros, and bought beers, ate at restaurants (manly pizzas, burgers and steaks), stayed at good value guest houses and did some sightseeing locally. They showed up FIFA’s MATCH by making their own accommodation bookings (at non-MATCH guest houses) and by buying their own match tickets, instead of falling for MATCH packages.
Golden Rip-Off Award goes to MATCH, the hospitality and ticketing agency of FIFA, which conned the accommodation industry for a second World Cup, promising good accommodation returns, forcing establishments to give 80 % of their rooms, promising not to cancel rooms as it did in Germany four years before, and for adding an unjustified 30 % commission to accommodation rates, giving South Africa an unfortunate image of “rip-off pricing” in the European and English media, thereby keeping soccer fans away from the country. As if this was not bad enough, the unfortunate accommodation establishments that signed with MATCH received the majority of their rooms back, just a few weeks before the start of the World Cup.
Golden City Award goes to Cape Town, which to date has had the highest number of goals scored (22) of all stadiums, and has achieved the highest occupancy of stadium seats, said Cape Town Stadium Venue Manager Terral Cullen at a Volunteer Farewell Lunch earlier this week. The Stadium was moved a few meters and a new one built, for the benefit of the view from it onto Table Mountain. Ironically it was not the mountain that became the focus of the world media, but it was the Stadium itself that formed the backdrop for report after report about our beautiful city and the matches that were taking place. Even the sport commentators would refer to the beauty of the city during their match commentary. President Zuma claimed it as the best World Cup city, and FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke said the Cape Town Stadium had the best pitch and was the most perfect stadium, so much so that the Olympic Committee has requested Cape Town to bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. What an accolade! Sepp Blatter has taken IOC President Rogge around Cape Town, and personally has recommended the city. We know that what President Blatter wants, he gets!
Golden Card Award goes to the World Cup referees who loved the red and yellow ones, waving them at players at great regularity, and influencing outcomes of matches as a result – Klose and Mueller’s red and yellow cards were examples for the German team.
Golden Flop Award goes to all soccer players who collapsed every time another player bumped into them – from a distance many of them looked like primadonnas, hoping for a free kick whenever they flopped onto the grass
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com