Just over two weeks ago, a fisherman named Kimio Abe caught a giant Pacific octopus in a small town on Hokkaido, Japan. “Uh, cool,” you’re saying to yourself. “So what?” The ‘so what’ is that Abe named it Rabio, put it in a kiddie pool, and decided that the octopus should spend a handful of weekdays trying to predict the outcome of Japan’s first three World Cup matches.
On the day that Rabio was dragged out of the sea, the Samurai Blue played Colombia, and the South American side was heavily favored. But Rabio scuttled to the side of the pool that corresponded to a Japan win—and he was right. (I’ll admit that I picked Colombia in my own Fantasy League, proving for the thousandth time that I am dumber than the average invertebrate.)
Rabio kept going, like an eight-legged, less deceptive Miss Cleo. He correctly guessed that Japan would draw with Senegal before losing to Poland in the final match of the Group Stage. Japan finished second in its group, advancing to the round of 16 for the third time in the tournament’s history.
Trying to predict the outcome of Japan’s match against a stacked-as-shit Belgium side would’ve been Rabio’s truest test—wait, what? Before Japan lost to Poland, Rabio was plucked out of his pool, and Abe took this apparently psychic octopus to the fish market to be sliced up and sold like any other seafood.
“I’m glad that all the forecasts turned out correct and Japan moved on to the knockout stage,” Abe told the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper. “I hope Rabio’s successor will accurately tip the results of all games and Japan will win the World Cup.”
Well, sorry, non-psychic fisherman, but that did not happen. Despite scoring two back-to-back goals in the second half, Japan gave three back, including a profanity-inducing Belgian counter-attack in the final minute of extra time. Belgium won 3-2, so nice work, genius. (“I feel the depth of human karma,” one person tweeted.)
I’m not sure what it says about soccer, the World Cup, or people in general, but this is not the first time that a psychic octopus has been present at the tournament. In 2010, a German octopus named Paul correctly predicted the results of all of Germany’s matches, and he also guessed that Spain would be flying home as champions.
After Paul correctly prophesied that Germany would beat Argentina in the quarter-finals, Argentinian supporters threatened to eat him. (“There are always people who want to eat our octopus,” his keeper Oliver Walenciak told The Telegraph.) And when Paul predicted that Spain would beat his home country in the semis, his German fans turned on him, to the point that Spanish officials actually offered to protect him from becoming the world’s most famous appetizer platter.
"I am concerned for the octopus […] I am thinking of sending him a protective team," then-Prime Minister Jose Zapatero said. The Spanish Environment and Fisheries Minister also suggested a fishing ban “so the Germans do not eat him.” The Germans did NOT eat him; Paul died in October 2010, of causes unrelated to being eaten.
The day after Japan’s World Cup exit, head coach Ishino Akira spoke to the media for the final time. “We really got to experience what the World Cup had to offer,” he said.
If only we could say the same for that octopus.