It all started with the news that then coach Joey ‘Mafero’ Antipas, who was taking charge of the Warriors on an interim basis after Sunday Chidzambwa’s resignation, would not be given the job on a permanent basis.
The Felton Kamambo-led ZIFA board then advertised the biggest coaching post in the country and we were told that more 12 candidates applied.
That was at the end of 2019.
Apparently Mafero, despite guiding Zimbabwe to four points from the opening two games in the AFCON 2021 campaign, was not good enough to be the permanent coach.
ZIFA then announced on the 29th of January 2020 that 55-year-old Croatian Zdravko Logarusic, had been appointed on a 2-year deal.
His unveiling was at Cresta Oasis days later and it is at that press conference where many people’s skepticism started.
“I m a coach, not a magician, so let’s see what happens. The people of Zimbabwe have suffered and we should make them happy,” the Croat told sports journalists that day.
That statement on its own mirrored a man who from the onset showed his know-how to tell excuses- something he has proved to be an expert in.
One would also be curious to know what he meant by “Zimbabweans have suffered” but that’s a story for another day.
Covid-19 delayed the Croat’s first assignment in charge of the country’s flagship soccer team and it only came on the 11th of October- the international friendly against Malawi, at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
He had at his disposal, regulars including Marvelous Nakamba, Teenage Hadebe, Divine Lunga, Alec Mudimu and Khama Billiat for the friendly encounter, mostly remembered for some sections of local media reporting that the team had left for Malawi by road, only for them to show up at training at ZIFA Village in Harare, the next morning.
That clash was the first time Zimbabweans got to have a glimpse of the team under Loga and it ended goalless. It was a dull affair.
Up next for the Croat’s charges was a blockbuster AFCON 2021 qualifier against defending champions Algeria, battles which every fan patiently-waited for.
He named his squad for the crucial encounters on November 1, at Cresta Oasias flanked by his ‘trusted’ lieutenants Tonderai Ndiraya and Lloyd Chitembwe.
Only Stade de Reims’ Marshall Munetsi was absent from that squad, with the Croat promising the nation that the team would give the Desert Foxes a run for their money.
The first clash in Algiers ended in defeat for the Warriors, 1-3, with Tino Kadewere netting the consolation in the second half after they had trailed 0-3.
The team had some chances to score in a somewhat solid second half display.
During half time in Algiers, Logarusic, according to a player whose chose to confide to Soccer24 and asked not to be named, fumed at Billiat and ordered the diminutive Kaizer Chiefs winger to take off his boots, because he ‘wasn’t doing enough.’
Chitembwe convinced Loga to change his mind and Billiat went in for the second half, before he substituted later on in the game.
The return fixture was at the National Sports Stadium in Harare four days later and the gutsy coached announced a starting eleven without Billiat, predictably that is, as well Ovidy Karuru, Divine Lunga, Jordan Zemura and Alec Mudimu, players who had all started in the defeat in Algiers.
He replaced them with David Moyo, who partnered Kadewere upfront in a 4-4-2 setup, while Adam Chicksen replaced Lunga at left-back, Jimmy Dzingai replaced Mudimu in the heart of defense partnering Teenage Hadebe, Tafadzwa Rusike came in for Zemura and partnered Nakamba in enforcing the midfield.
The changes somewhat backfired, as Loga’s men founding themselves trailing 0-2 in the first half, before inspirational captain Knowledge Musona pulled one back on the stroke half time, with a spectacular free kick.
Loga rang some changes at the beginning of the second half- bringing in Billiat, Karuru and Lunga and those paid dividends as they changed the complexion of the game. Deservedly, the Warriors leveled matters late on through Prince Dube, to earn a crucial point which brought their qualifying campaign back on track.
Those who were skeptical of him to some extent began to see some light, but that light didn’t last long.
Two months later, the local-based Warriors touched down on Cameroonian soil for CHAN 2021.
That was a tournament everybody predicted Logarusic’s excuse for failure- Covid-19 and how it had affected the local Premier Soccer League.
They lost 0-1 to the hots Cameroon in the opening game on the 16th of January but it was a controversial incident just before kickoff, which triggered controversy.
Logarusic found a dead bird on the pitch and pictured himself beside it with a placard written ‘Witchcraft in Cameroon,’, in arguably the Croat’s biggest moment of madness in his roaming coaching career in Africa.
His charges lost the other two group games against Mali and Burkina Faso and he remained winless since his appointment.
He flew from Cameroon straight to his base in Croatia- that was in January.
He stayed there until March, with ZIFA giving him the go-ahead and only returned just before the Warriors’ decisive qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia.
He took to Gaborone a somewhat depleted squad without Nakamba, Tendayi Darikwa, Admiral Muskwe, David Moyo, Kadewere and Munetsi, who could not travel due to Covid-19 travelling restrictions.
A solitary Perfect Chikwende strike propelled the Wariors to a 1-0 win, a triumph which took them to Cameroon.
That decisive victory was the only time Loga tasted victory in the Warriors dugout.
He has used it on several occasions to depreciate the fact that he was won only one game in the 12 he has presided over.
It is the ongoing Cosafa Cup, in which Zimbabwe turned from feared record champions to weeping boys, which has triggered calls for his exit.
His team selection has been poor. His tactics have been questioned, the same goes for his man-management and whether or not the team has improved under his guidance is evidently not the case.