Nigeria will stun football this summer in Russia by becoming the first African nation to lift the FIFA World Cup. The Super Eagles are poised to get their hands on the trophy to shock followers of the globe’s favourite game and deny favourites such as Spain, Germany and Argentina (not Italy, obviously as they are not in it).
The shocking almost illegal prediction comes from none other than Eric the Octopus, a resident of Southend Zoological Park — and a first cousin twice removed of the most famous soothsaying octopus in history, Paul, the, erm, octopus.
Paul, who boasted the eight legs required to be an octopus but had an uncanny knack of imitating an underwater voice of commentator John Morton, was a tabloid newspaper star of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. He shot to fame when he successfully predicted the outcome of eight matches before pegging it in an aquarium in Germany.
Just like Paul, but with an entirely different first name, Eric has been leaving his keepers and fellow sea-life creatures gobsmacked with his outrageous predictions.
Yet he is adamant that Nigeria, bossed for the tournament by coach Gernot Rohr, will emerge as the champions of the planet. Duke Renault, close friend and sometime inmate at the nearby Essex Institute for the Potty, says the Super Eagles are a dot on the card, according to Eric.
“He’s convinced, it’s Nigeria all the way,” said Duke in a telephone interview from his holiday home near Camber Sands. “Eric speaks to me in a kind of underwater John Motson voice all through what I like to call ‘telepathic texting’.
“I imagine what he’s text me after we stare at each other for a good few hours and when I excitedly jot down what I think he’s thinking, he readily agrees by waving one, two, or sometimes, all of his tentacles. It’s a cast-iron way to win money, too, probably. I’ve had a tenner on Nigeria at 33-1 and my mate Max Smooth has stretched to £20.”
Many locals are sceptical over the claims. Fay Kaskoop, chief news reporter with the Southend Daily Tribune, says she questions the veracity of the insistence of Renault to have the ability to converse with a soft-bodied, eight-armed mollusc of the order Octopoda. In her piece entitled, Nigeria Won’t Win the Bloody World Cup, Eric!, she was scathing of the octo-predictor. She penned 867 words attacking the claims and concluded with the jibe, “next he will be predicting that England will win it!”
It is indeed a tall order for Nigeria to live up to the faith shown in them by Eric. Coach Rohr is reasonably well experienced — he had managed three other African nations before taking over the Super Eagles in 2016 — but it’s more about the powerful nations his side are up against.
Nigeria boast some decent players, that isn’t in doubt. Captain John Obi Mikel is still a dominant force while Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho, Chelsea’s Victor Moses and Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi can all make an impact. But win it? Well, yes, according to Eric!
Nigeria’s World Cup games
Croatia: Saturday, June 16 at 8pm
Iceland: Friday, June 22 at 4pm
Argentina: Tuesday, June 26 at 7pm