Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
AT first glance, from a distance, he looked like Wieslaw Grabowski, back in the days the Polish coach was foraging for raw talent in Chitungwiza or coaching the Warriors.
A dark suit, and matching shirt, showed he was there for business.
Then, a closer look, appeared to give an impression he was some Eastern European underworld boss.
Someone like Danny Ocean in Steven Soderbergh’s 2001 American box-office hit movie, “Ocean Eleven”. The man who, with the help of his friends, plotted a heist of U$150 million in which they robbed casino owner, Terry Benedict.
By some sheer coincidence, there were nine people at the top table — Felton Kamambo, Philemon Machana, Farai Jere, Barbra Chikosi, Bryton Malandule, Zdravko Logarusic, Robert Moutsinga, Joseph Mamutse and Xolisani Gwesela.
And, there were two others — Sugar Chagonda, the ZIFA board member, and technical director, Wilson Mutekede — who should have been there but, for various reasons, couldn’t make it.
That’s 11 people — the ZIFA leaders, the new Warriors coach and his Cameroonian agent — as if to confirm this was, indeed, the cast of “Ocean Eleven”.
Julia Roberts provides the only female connection, among the stars of that movie, and there was also one woman, Chikosi, the women’s football boss, at that top table in that Harare hotel on Thursday.
After the customary introductions had been made, and Kamambo had lightened the mood by saying he would not repeat his error, saying there were four continents in Zimbabwe, it was time for us to listen to the star attraction.
The one who, from a distance, had first looked like a clone of Grabowski and, viewed from a ring-side seat, would fit the role of an Eastern European underworld boss — Zdravko Logarusic!
And, with an intoxicating touch of both arrogance, and confidence, he began his story; telling us who he was, a fearless Balkan Warrior from Croatia, a small European country of just about four million people, which has punched way above its weight in football.
Very correct Mr Loga, no argument there, after all, the four million Croats produced a team that reached the final of the FIFA World Cup in Russia just two years ago.
That’s the smallest country, in terms of population, to go this far since 2,2 million Uruguayans produced a team that reached the World Cup final in 1950 in Brazil.
Then, there are the legends — Alen Boksic, Robert and Niko Kovac, Robert Prosinecki, Zvominir Boban, Davor Suker and Luca Modric, who won the Golden Ball at the 2018 World Cup and the Ballon d’Or in the same year.
All of them Croats, all of them great!
Loga was right to boast about it, emphasising he comes from a country with a rich football pedigree, and appealing to those who are doubting him as a mercenary, only here for the money, to give him a chance.
But, football is a crazy game.
Didn’t we see Modric becoming the first Ballon d’Or winner not to make the shortlist of candidates for the same award, the following year?
And doesn’t that provide us with lessons that the cruelty of this game is that no comfort should be drawn from the past?
The very first question he faced on Thursday jolted him; ‘‘Coach, where you fired in Sudan?’’
And, his response was a firm ‘‘no,’’ he had left on his own terms.
If he needed a reminder, this wasn’t a honeymoon, then this was it.
He sparred with the journalists, giving as much as he got, all the time talking with a touch of passion, and — at one time — as the heat rose to another level, took off his jacket, never yielding a yard.
There were times when he appeared overcome with emotion, there were moments when he seemed to enjoy the occasion and there were occassions he appeared about to burst.
But, after the fireworks, Loga — to his eternal credit — would always find a way to go back to what was important — his grand mission to try and transform his Warriors.
‘‘I cannot do it by myself. In this job, I need proper support from my technical staff,’’ he said.
‘‘I need proper support from the players, proper support from the association and, most importantly, the media and the supporters.
“We must create an environment that gives us results. With that we don’t care who is Algeria, or any other opponent.’’
After appearing to have questioned the Warriors’ chances against the Black Stars of Ghana, in a radio interview that ended with him in the eye of a raging storm back here, this was classic Loga.
His statement, saying his men could take on the African champions, without worrying about their pedigree, appeared a way of making up for his Ghanaian gaffe.
‘‘We have talent out there,’’ he said. “I think I am lucky, maybe, God is protecting me, most of the Zimbabwean players are playing competitive football in Europe and in South Africa.
‘‘And, most of them are in the right age to play good football. Now, we have to put together all those things to get nice results and we will do it.
‘‘Give me a bit of time, I am not a magician, I am just a coach. And, I will do it to make you happy.’’
Warriors’ fans, and seasoned journalists, have seen a number of clowns, disguised as coaches, come here preaching all the good things, only to deceive them when their shortcomings are crudely exposed.
The jury is still out on Loga, and it will take more than a passionate performance at a media conference, to convince many he is the real deal.
But, if Loga is a fraudster, as some of his biggest critics appear to suggest, then he has a perfect way of disguising it.
And, listening to him talk for about an hour on Thursday, was a masterclass in the gospel of converting a number of Doubting Thomases.
Whether he is a game-changer, or just another Croatian version of the likes of Jorge Paolo Silva, Valinhos, Ian Potterfield, just to name but a few whose camouflage as misfits was eventually blown away, we will know.
Soon, and very soon.
After all, next month, the Desert Foxes will come to town, that is, if we still have a stadium fit to host an international match.