Zimbabwe head coach Zdravko Logarusic has refused to blame Cameroon’s alleged witchcraft for his side’s defeat in their African Nations Championship opener after a bat carcass was found on the pitch ahead of the game, but he has outlined his belief that such intimidation tactics have no place in the sport.
Chan hosts Cameroon dispatched the Warriors 1-0 in their tournament opener at the weekend, with Salomon Banga scoring the only goal of the game with an acrobatic bicycle kick late in the second half.
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— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) January 16, 2021
Complete coincidence or foul play?#CHAN2021 #CMRZIM pic.twitter.com/TjaJA1YFLV
However, the contest was marred by pre-match allegations of witchcraft, with Logarusic pictured alongside a bat’s carcass that had been found on the centre circle.
“If you want to talk professionally, those things should not be involved in anything professionally,” he told Goal. “For sure, football is football, sport is a sport.
“We exposed it, this photograph exposed that these things still exist,” he added. “Those things did not surprise me, because already I saw it in different counties where I worked in Africa.
“You have some people in Africa who [believe in] juju or witchcraft, or they go to see some people to see magic, or pay people to do things,” the Croat noted. “I already saw a few things, I already had some experiences because I saw that some club officials paid people to do things, I’m not unfamiliar [with it].”
Earlier this week, the Confederation of African Football confirmed to Goal that they were taking the matter seriously and that they would dish out sanctions to Cameroon if the hosts were found guilty of any wrong-doing.
EXCLUSIVE BAT-GATE UPDATE: @caf_online have confirmed to me that they are launching an investigation into Zimbabwe's 'witchcraft' allegations against CHAN hosts Cameroon.— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) January 18, 2021
Full story & quotes here: https://t.co/98Ox17w4BI#CHAN2020 #CMRZIM pic.twitter.com/EHask2RoVb
However, Logarusic insists that he has not made a big deal about the attempted intimidation, has made no formal complain to Caf, and hasn’t discussed the incident with local journalists.
“We did not make a complaint,” he continued. “Officially, I did not make any comment in a press conference before or after the match, because I know what Africa is like.
“As a national team, we didn’t complain about it, we just showed it, we smiled, and then we continued in preparation for the game. After the game, in press conference, I didn’t mention that someone did it.
“It’s how they live, they believe in this, it’s their freedom.”
While Zimbabwe lost the match narrowly, Logarusic has refused to blame the defeat on bat-gate, and has taken a magnanimous approach to Cameroon’s victory.
“In the press conference, I didn’t say this was to blame,” he continued. “We lost the game 1-0; if we wanted a positive result, we should have scored a goal. We didn’t.
“Cameroon were even better, maybe we could have got a draw, but that was how it finished.
“Afterwards I complimented the coach, and I didn’t complain about witchcraft. It’s not the level of an international coach to complain about witchcraft.”
Zimbabwe 🇿🇼 did us proud today, particularly considering they haven’t played competitively for over nine months.— Ed Dove (@EddyDove) January 16, 2021
Rugged, disciplined, resilient display, and they can take much encouragement.
Well done, Warriors.#CHAN2021 #CMRZIM pic.twitter.com/2A0bs7PVSI
While stopping short of attributing Zimbabwe’s defeat to Cameroon’s alleged employment of the dark arts, Logarusic did acknowledge that some of his players may well have been affected by the would-be witchcraft.
“Some of them felt a bit uncomfortable,” he confined. “Some of us say these things exist, some of us say they are nonsense, but officially, we just tried to forget and focus on the game.
“In my opinion, these things can never help me, but how they impact on African players, I’m not so sure. There will be some distractions, because out of 20 players, for sure you have a percentage who think these things work.
“It’s a possibility that it can be a distraction, it’s a possibility some players believe in it, but they didn’t express it to me.”
Zimbabwe continue their Group A campaign against Burkina Faso, defeated 1-0 by Mali in their opener, at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaounde on Wednesday, where Logarusic will be hoping to sidestep any further unwanted distractions.
“I don’t put so much [emphasis] on this, because most of them are not sure, some of them say maybe, some of them have a feeling, but we try to ignore it,” he concluded. “The main thing is we are not saying we lost the game because of that, we lost the game because we didn’t perform.
“Did we not perform because of witchcraft, or because we were not ready, or because there was lots of tension, or because it was the first game?” he concluded. “We didn’t analyse it so much, but we’re not blaming witchcraft for this.”