Wednesday Jun 13, 2018
MOSCOW: Russia´s football team has failed to chalk up a single victory in eight months but things could be about to improve -- according to a supposedly clairvoyant cat who predicted a win for the side in the first World Cup match.
Achilles, a deaf white cat who is the official animal soothsayer for the tournament, on Wednesday chose a bowl of food bearing the host´s flag rather than that of Saudi Arabia, who Russia will face on Thursday evening.
The blue-eyed feline is usually part of a team of dozens of cats that guard Saint Petersburg´s Hermitage museum from rodents, but has taken on a new role for the football event.
"Achilles is already used to the public and shouldn´t be too stressed," said vet Anna Kondratyeva, who manages the animals.
The cat follows in the tentacle-prints of Paul the Octopus who became a star in 2010 after predicting winners for that year´s World Cup by choosing one out of two boxes containing food.
Others have made a play to be the next Paul -- including Swiss guinea pig Madame Shiva in 2014 and British Piranha Pele -- but none quite had the mollusc´s foresight.
Earlier in the day the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill said he would pray for the national team to give a worthy performance.
The hosts, who take on Saudi Arabia in the Thursday curtainraiser, need all the moral support they can get as they come into the event without a win in seven games.