ST. PETERSBURG, June 13. /TASS/. Achilles the cat, a resident of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and an official oracle of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, has predicted the Russian national team will be the winner of the opening match of the FIFA World Cup, TASS reported on Wednesday.
Russia will play against Saudi Arabia on Thursday, June 14. At a ceremony to make his predictions by choosing between two bowls of cat food, Achilles chose that with the Russian flag, however not without hesitation.
Achilles, a snow-white tom cat from the Hermitage Museum launched his oracle carrier during the FIFA Confederations Cup last year. Museum’s staff said he had been chosen from among the other cats for his ability to choose, analyze and for his unusual behavior.
Last year, the Hermitage cat was right about the outcomes of three out of four 2017 Confederations Cup matches played in St. Petersburg, including the opening and final matches.
Throughout the year, Achilles has been preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, taking part in public events, training to shed weight and get more fit, as well as to be more definite in the forecasts without paying attention to camera flashes and the presence of unfamiliar people. Achilles is deaf as many white cats are, yet this impairment does not sidetrack the feline and lets him better concentrate on his predictions.
In the remaining days before the championship kicks off, Achilles has been daily training at the Hermitage Museum, where the prediction sessions will take place during the Russia-hosted World Cup.
The FIFA World Cup, the first-ever hosted by Russia, will be held between June 14 and July 15, 2018, in 11 Russian cities - Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk, Kaliningrad, Volgograd, Yekaterinburg, Samara, Sochi and Rostov-on-Don.
St. Petersburg will host seven matches - Morocco vs. Iran on June 15, Russia vs. Egypt on June 19, Brazil vs. Costa Rica on June 22. Argentina will play against Nigeria on June 26. Two play-off games and a match for the third place will also take place in St. Petersburg.
The cats have been living in the Hermitage, originally a tsar’s palace, since the 18th century after Empress Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great, the founder of the city, issued an order to bring mice-catching cats from the city of Kazan, famous for its rat hunters at that time.
Now, from 50 to 70 rat-catching cats roam the Hermitage’s basement and they also appear on the neighboring embankment and square. Their population is regulated to avoid territorial disputes. In the recent years, the cats of the Hermitage have become a popular tourist brand in the city.
The city has even established a special holiday - Day of the Hermitage Cat. Apart from that, it offers a tourist trail, Cats of St. Petersburg. In 2015, the British press put the Hermitage Museum cats on the list of the world’s most unusual tourist attractions.