Kharkiv, Ukraine – Two years ago, Paul the Octopus grabbed more than his fair share of World Cup headlines as the ocean animal correctly predicted the outcome of Germany's seven matches at the tournament as well as the final.
After achieving world-wide fame and being allowed to enjoy a well-deserved retirement, the octopus moved on to the big aquarium in the sky – or wherever else octopi go when their task in this world is complete.
Since then, the world has been crying out for another creature to take over the mantle left vacant when Paul departed.
This is where Citta the Elephant, Funtik the Pig, Yvonne the Cow, Fred the Ferret and a whole host of others come in.
Presumably because Paul was German – a fact hotly disputed by some countries as he was actually born in England and given honorary citizenship by the Spanish village of Carbevallino – there are several Paul wannabes in that country.
There was Sissi the Munich sausage dog and another octopus called Rosi from Rosenheim, to name but two.
Presumably, both have been sent into early retirement after falsely predicting that Bayern Munich would beat Chelsea for the Champions League title last month.
But just like Sissi and Rosi struggled with their predictions, the Euro psychics – at least those belonging to the animal kingdom – have found the going tough.
Fred the Ferret, who lives in the Kharkiv Zoo, is the host city's answer to Paul the Octopus. He was chosen because the fans of the local football team, Metalist Kharkiv, are known as the Ferrets and their supporters have adopted one of the zoo's ferrets as their mascot.
His entry into the world of football predictions has been so-so. He started off by predicting a draw between co-hosts Poland and Greece, which proved to be correct.
His handlers deduced this result when he refused to eat from one of two bowls holding fresh beef. Flags of the two countries had been placed next to the bowls.
The ferret predicted the same result for the game between Russia and the Czech Republic, which was totally off the mark as Russia were rampant in their 4-1 victory.
Fred bounced back strongly though as he correctly predicted that Germany would beat Portugal and Denmark would upset the Netherlands.
Thus, after just two days, he has already been wrong once – unlike the all-knowing Paul the Octopus.
If Fred could speak however, he would presumably complain that compared to the expectations placed on his fury shoulders, Paul had it easy. After all, Paul was asked to give his predictions for eight matches, not the whole tournament.
Be that as it may, unless Fred puts in a remarkable run of correct predictions, his career as an animal psychic will be short-lived. Just like that of most others that followed in Paul's rather successful tentacles.
It would thus seem that Citta, Funtik, Yvonne and Fred are a bit like items purchased from the fake market in Shanghai: Great to look at, plenty of fun, but simply not the real deal. – Sapa-dpa