Trains, Petri Dishes and a Struggling Sea Lion Join Football’s Dubious Oracles

The sea lioness Hilla from Leipzig Zoo, Germany aims for a goal with Scotland and German marked balls Thursday June 13, 2024, where she predicted that the two teams will play out a draw during their opening match ar the start of the Euro 2024 soccer championship on Friday. (dpa/AP)
The sea lioness Hilla from Leipzig Zoo, Germany aims for a goal with Scotland and German marked balls Thursday June 13, 2024, where she predicted that the two teams will play out a draw during their opening match ar the start of the Euro 2024 soccer championship on Friday. (dpa/AP)
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Trains, Petri Dishes and a Struggling Sea Lion Join Football’s Dubious Oracles

The sea lioness Hilla from Leipzig Zoo, Germany aims for a goal with Scotland and German marked balls Thursday June 13, 2024, where she predicted that the two teams will play out a draw during their opening match ar the start of the Euro 2024 soccer championship on Friday. (dpa/AP)
The sea lioness Hilla from Leipzig Zoo, Germany aims for a goal with Scotland and German marked balls Thursday June 13, 2024, where she predicted that the two teams will play out a draw during their opening match ar the start of the Euro 2024 soccer championship on Friday. (dpa/AP)

Spare a thought for Hilla the "oracle" sea lion from Leipzig Zoo, whose reputation for football prophesy is hanging by a thread after she predicted Scotland would hold Germany to an unlikely draw at Euro 2024.

Had she not watched the two sides? Did she know nothing of football history and Scotland's repeated failures at major tournaments? Seemingly not and the 5-1 thrashing dealt out to Steve Clarke's side by the hosts has called Hilla's soothsaying credentials into question.

No major football tournament would be complete without a host of fortune-telling animals but surprisingly, or perhaps not, not all of these "oracles" turn out to be very good.

Hilla has since regained some respectability by correctly predicting Germany would beat Hungary, a result that immediately elevated her above Oobi-Ooobi, another Leipzig based clairvoyant, in the oracle league table.

Poor Oobi-Ooobi, a koala who looked less than impressed to be hauled in front of a camera to do his soothsaying, was a designated oracle at Euro 2016, but just couldn't catch a break. Forced to choose between eucalyptus leaves in containers bearing the competing countries' flags, he got it wrong every time.

Of course, like all oracles, it is possible that their messages are just misunderstood.

When the Oracle at Delphi famously told Croesus, King of Lydia, that if he waged war on the Persians he would destroy a great kingdom, he was delighted. A kingdom was destroyed, but it was his own.

So when Hilla, who seemed equally comfortable with both her left and right flipper, knocked the German and Scottish balls towards goal, she could just have been predicting a second-half consolation for the Scots and not the unlikely draw her keepers assumed.

There were no such excuses for Suzie, a 15-stone (95-kg) pig who tucked into a clearly-labelled bucket of food bearing an England flag, shunning Italy, when asked to predict the Euro 2020 final result.

Suzie clearly did not think that Gareth Southgate's side would retreat into their shell after taking an early lead or consider England's terrible record in penalty shootouts if it was all square after extra time.

There was also Mani the parakeet, whose early good form at the 2010 World Cup ended in disappointment with semi-final and final failures or the animals at Chemnitz Zoo who were wrong on all of Germany's group-stage games at the same tournament.

Anyone who thinks the phenomenon of non-humans predicting football results has gone too far has clearly never been to Switzerland where psychic gut bacteria determined incorrectly that the Swiss would beat Scotland on Wednesday.

Yet in another blow to Hilla's credibility, some E. coli bacteria in Germany managed to predict that the hosts would beat Scotland in the tournament's opener.

Germany's trains may have occasionally struggled to cope with the hordes of fans at Euro 2024, but this hasn't stopped one operator in Hamburg entering into the true spirit of an international tournament -- using a train to punt a football into a goal to try to predict the outcomes of matches.

So it seems that for every Paul the Octopus, the trend setter whose uncanny divinations during the 2010 World Cup alerted every PR department in the world to the human appetite for implausible animal seers, there are countless less impressive pets, trains and even petri dishes.



Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK
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Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Saudi Team Wins 6 Awards at 2024 International Mathematical Olympiad in UK

Under the auspices of the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity "Mawhiba" and the Ministry of Education, the Saudi mathematics team won six awards at the 65th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) 2024 held in the UK from July 15 to 21.

The event featured 603 talented students from 104 countries, with the Saudi team securing 1 silver medal, 4 bronze medals, and 1 certificate of appreciation.

Hadi Al-Aithan from the Al-Ahsa education department won the silver medal, while Youssef Bakheet (Yanbu education department), Mohammed Rabie (Madinah education department), Muath Al-Qahtani (Al-Sharqiyah education department), and Ahmed Al-Shehri (Riyadh education department) received bronze medals.

Mohammad Al-Ghamdi from the Al-Sharqiyah education department was honored with a certificate of appreciation.

Secretary-General of Mawhiba Amal Al-Hazzaa extended her congratulations to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, for this remarkable national achievement.

She also congratulated the students, their families, schools, teachers, and education departments for their outstanding accomplishment and wished them continued success.

Al-Hazzaa described this triumph in such a prestigious competition as a moment of immense pride for the entire nation.

Furthermore, she underlined her gratitude to Minister of Education Youssef Al-Benyan for his unwavering support of Mawhiba and the exceptionally talented students in public education.

She commended the minister's dedication in providing necessary resources and opportunities, which have contributed to the fruitful partnership between the ministry and Mawhiba.

Furthermore, she highlighted Al-Benyan’s efforts to empower Saudi talents and propel them to greater heights of achievement through this collaboration.

Saudi Arabia's participation in the IMO 2024 is part of the Mawhiba International Olympiad program, which operates under a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education. The program is one of 20 different initiatives offered annually by Mawhiba and the ministry, providing advanced curricula and enriching programs.

The initiatives offer a multi-phase journey for gifted students, exploring, boosting, and empowering their ambitions, in collaboration with local and international partners.

Students enrolled in the Mawhiba International Olympiad program undergo rigorous training, over 1,000 hours a year, in cooperation with the ministry. The training, focused on their chosen scientific track, is delivered under the guidance of local trainers and international Olympiad experts.

With this latest achievement, Saudi Arabia's tally of IMO awards has risen to 77, including 12 silver medals, 46 bronze medals, and 19 certificates of appreciation.