Paul the octopus, the oracle of the World Cup in South Africa, has become an official ambassador for England’s bid to host the tournament in 2018, organisers say.
Paul, who was hatched in England but has spent the last two years in an aquarium in western Germany, joins footballers David Beckham and Rio Ferdinand, Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and singers Noel Gallagher and Sting in backing the bid.
“Paul has spent the last two years of his life in Germany, but he is definitely a proud Englishman and is therefore delighted to put his support behind England 2018,” said Nicola Hamilton, manager at the Weymouth Sea Life Centre in southern England, where Paul was born.
“We have had a number of football approaches from around the world but Paul was only ever going to choose his homeland.”
She said Paul had officially retired from predicting matches, a skill that won him worldwide fame during this year’s World Cup, when he correctly predicted the outcome of seven Germany games and that Spain would win the final.
He did this by choosing one of two boxes lowered into his tank, each of which contained a mussel and the flags of the opposing teams.
“With his predicting days behind him, Paul is now concentrating on a number of new projects and the England 2018 campaign is something we are sure he feels passionately about,” Hamilton said.
Following his prediction success, Paul has signed a book deal, is due to appear in a film and is the face of a range of merchandise, with the proceeds to be donated to charity, according to the England 2018 bid team.
A delegation from world football body FIFA arrives on Monday for a four-day visit to assess England’s bid.
England is competing with Russia, the United States, Australia and joint bids from Spain and Portugal, and Holland and Belgium to host the 2018 tournament.
The winning bids for 2018 and the 2022 World Cup will be revealed on December 2.