"Login or Logout?" - Warriors Coach Zdravko Logarusic Eyes Immortality As He Leads Zimbabwe to AFCON 2022

By Ashley Dube and Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza 

Warriors gaffer Zdvarko Logarusic is the man of the moment, with the manager once claiming he is more popular than the head of state in an interview with Zimpapers TV Network (ZTN). This is largely a consequence of his charges’ failure in the 2021 COSAFA Cup tournament held last month, resulting in huge calls on social media demanding the Croat to get the sack before the commencement of the World Cup Qualifiers. Sporting emotions and all.

Zdravko Logarusic Zimbabwe Warriors Coach AFCON 2022 Cameroon Group B Draw
Zdravko Logarusic, Zimbabwe's national football coach 

One might argue, “fair play to his critics” – Logarusic’s numbers do not make a pleasant reading with only one win to his name from the twelve matches he presided; a 1-0 win against the Zebras of Botswana which secured Zimbabwe’s place at the next edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) set for January-February 2022 in Cameroon.

The African Nations Championship (CHAN) tournament was horrendous as Zimbabwe lost all three matches, bowing out in the first round of the tournament. Loga seems to have angered his fan base, worsened by some of his controversial claims that include using the respective tournaments to “take a look at the players” as well as saying that results were not his priority.

This resulted in people interrogating his commitment to the cause of the nation’s sporting endeavours and aspirations, together with his tactical nous and in-game management. The prevailing thought in the Logout brigade is for him to get the sack as soon as possible followed by an expeditious appointment of a local coach who will remedy the host of problems that the Warriors are battling.

But Loga can be vindicated. At most, he is a scapegoat (this does not totally exonerate him, though) in a much-wider and deeply structural predicament affecting Zimbabwean sport in the pandemic era – lack of ample game time due to the unending COVID-19 restrictions/lockdowns. Football has been close to non-existent since the announcement of the first lockdown in March 2020. Local football only returned exactly a year later for the domestic cup competition, Chibuku Super Cup.

However, domestic football (the Chibuku Super Cup was already underway) was brought to a grinding halt with the emergence of the third wave of the novel coronavirus cases. ZIFA recently applied for a waiver to resume local action which has been rejected by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) as the number of COVID-19 cases within the football circles have been increasing. It is no question that the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) have failed to setup a bio-secure bubble for football matches even though some countries in the region are managing fairly well. But of course, context matters. 

The Bola Yapa Zed in Zambia is in full-swing since 2020. Morocco, the eventual CHAN winners, resumed their domestic football campaign in July and it was evident in the tournament that they were a step ahead of their competition in terms of match preparedness as well as pure technical ability. Even other disciplines such as cricket and rugby have managed to navigate their way around this obstacle, organising matches for their respective national teams.

It is a point which Logarusic has pointed out strongly in his defence, citing how he had no chance to scout the players and work with them on the training ground pertaining his tactics and style of play. It is a fact that this bonding and familiarity with the players was absent due to matters beyond his control – public health concerns resulting in lockdowns. The same sentiments were shared by FC Platinum manager Norman Mapeza after he was knocked out in the CAF Champions league.

Luke Vahombe Masomere has backed Logarusic as well feeling that he needs more time. The administrative gaffes by ZIFA have also haunted coach Loga which led to his late arrival for the 2021 COSAFA Cup tournament, arriving hours just before kick-off of the Warriors’ first encounter.

For now, it would seem ZIFA are not in a position to make any alterations as regards the coaching position for the Warriors at AFCON 2022 in Cameroon. The tournament was supposed to be held this year but due to the pandemic-induced disruptions, qualification took longer thus necessitating such a delay. The tournament has 24 teams, with Gambia and Comoros making their AFCON debuts. 

The draw for the 2021 edition (now AFCON 2022) was held on 17 August 2021 and Zimbabwe are in Group B which has Senegal, Malawi, and Guinea. And as such, Loga is optimistic that he has the chance to make history by leading the Warriors to the knockout stages for the first time. 

Zimbabwe’s Warriors first featured at an AFCON tournament in 2004, appeared at the 2006 edition, then disappeared from Africa’s elite football tournament only to return in 2017. Since then, they have featured at the 2019 edition, and will be present at this edition. However, the Warriors, since they first appeared at AFCON, have only won two matches out of 12 AFCON group stage matches. At each edition, the Warriors have finished bottom of their group.

This is what Loga seeks to transform as he leads Zimbabwe to AFCON 2022 in Cameroon (the tournament will be held from 9 January to 6 February 2022). He wants to positively mark his place in the history books of Zimbabwe’s football – and we obviously assume he does not want to entertain talks of him logging out as the coach of Zimbabwe’s Warriors national football team. Perhaps he may make history. Perhaps he may not.

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