Tadious Manyepo, Harare Bureau
WARRIORS coach Zdravko Logarusic rekindled the debate about the use of “juju” in African football after a picture of him with a dead bat found at centre circle of the Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaoundé and the caption “witchcraft in Cameroon” circulated on the social media networks.
The Warriors coach and his players stumbled upon the carcass of the bird as the group went through their warm-up before the opening match against hosts Cameroon at the CHAN football tournament.
The match ended in a 0-1 defeat to Zimbabwe on Saturday night.
African football specialist Ed Dove stirred the debate when he posted on his Twitter account: “CHAN 2021 opener in Yaoundé overshadowed by pre-match accusations of witchcraft from the hosts by Zimbabwe coach Logarusic after a bat carcass is found on the pitch. Complete coincidence or foul play?”
Several social media outlets also ran the story. Many Africans believe juju works in football and have been practising this for many years.
But this age-old debate about the practicality of “juju” in determining the outcomes of matches has long been dismissed as part of the mind-games employed in Africa.
Cameroonians yesterday sprung up to dismiss Loga’s insinuations and explained that bats were common in that part of West Africa during this time of the year.
Others suggested that finding the dead bat right at the centre circle could not have been by coincidence. It could also have been part of the mind-games in African football and the Croatian had fallen to the trick.
Journalist Njie Enow, who is the head of sport at Cameroon Radio Television, teased Logarusic for the pre-match post.
“No disrespect intended but coach Logarusic is a clown. Yaoundé is home to hundreds of thousands of bats and around the dry season it’s common to see dead bats around the place. If witchcraft was involved, it would’ve been at least 3-0. This is normal,” posted Njie Enow.
Another Twitter user by the name Joe Segun quipped: “So bats can’t drop on soccer pitches? Why is it cute when squirrels (go) round around on football pitches in Europe, but the same scenario is considered witchcraft in Africa? I am not denying the existence of ‘juju’ in African football, but the incessant mention is becoming disrespectful.”
Apart from the pre-match drama, Logarusic has told his charges to quickly forget their disappointing opening day defeat to hosts Cameroon on Saturday night and reorient themselves for their next fixture against Burkina Faso on Wednesday.
Zimbabwe, dogged by poor preparations, having been grounded by Covid-19 in the run-up to the biannual football fiesta, gave a gallant showing against the Indomitable Lions and had they avoided some marginal errors, they should have picked at least a point in the tie.
But Loga has told his men to now focus on the coming match against Burkina Faso, who like them got their campaign to a false start following a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Mali.
“The team played well, but our lack of preparation was showing. I salute the boys for their gallantry but we don’’t have enough time to look in the past. We need to quickly move on since this is a tournament with games coming in quick succession,” said Logarusic.
“There are a lot of positives we picked from the game against Cameroon.
“We need to improve in different areas and we will be up there. We shot ourselves in the foot after committing some errors but it’’s part of the game and we can’t always cry over what has already happened.
“We could have easily picked a draw but we still have our own destiny firmly in our hands. We have to play and win then advance to the next stage.
“So at the moment, our full focus is on our next match against Burkina Faso.
“We know they lost in their opening match against Mali but they are not bad and they will, like us, try and redeem themselves in this match.”
Logarusic said his team will have to change tact as they will go all out for a win against Burkina Faso.
The Warriors were content sitting back and waiting for Cameroon to come at them on Saturday and ended up going for an ultra-defensive approach that resulted in the mistake that led to the goal.
“The Burkina Faso game is different altogether. We know for certain that even a draw may not be enough at the end judging from where we want to be at the end of the tournament.
“We will adjust obviously. Burkina Faso are not Cameroon. We are all playing away from home and we will punch hard. We need a result and I have told the boys to go at them right from the start.”
He said his charges were disappointed by the loss against Cameroon and they won’’t be under pressure in Wednesday’s game.
“We have never been under pressure. I have said that we came into this tournament against the backdrop of ill-preparations due to Covid-19. But we are the Warriors who can get results in any circumstances. We are preparing for the match against Burkina Faso knowing fully that we need to win it. We will treat it with everything that it deserves. Everyone is focused and raring to go.
“We have to progress to the next round and we can only do that by getting results. We can only get results by winning matches. The match will be tough but we need to grind out something.”
Loga will most likely start working on changing tactics including throwing more strikers in the fray.
He threw a lone striker, Wellington Taderera, who was somehow starved all afternoon in the game against Cameroon.
After playing Burkina Faso on Wednesday, the Warriors will conclude their Group A business against Mali on Sunday.