Voices Of the Diaspora: Meet Cross Continental Football Manager, Zdravko Logarušić!

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Zdravko Logarušić
Zdravko Logarušić

Originally from Herzegovina, Zdravko grew up in Slavonski Bord and has coached football teams across four continents. He is among the first generation of coaches who headed to the football academy and eventually got the Euro-Pro License, which allows him to coach anywhere in the world after a successful finish to the 1998 World Cup. In 2009 he received an invitation from Uganda Premier League to coach King Faisal FC, a team last on the table, who had 9 points out of a possible 39. At the end of the season, he managed to get them in seventh place, and it’s where his success across the African continent began. 

Logarušic is currently based in Zimbabwe, coaching the National Football Team and training to qualify for the World Cup. “As a coach, I’ve experienced it all but have yet to play a World Cup match,” said Zdravko. 

1. How did you get into coaching football internationally? 

When Croatia finished third at the 1998 World Cup, the European National Football team decided to award Croatia 24 seats to a school of 24 coaches every 3 years who can apply for a European license, which is the highest license. In translation, it is the level of Dr. Football. I have a UEFA Pro license, which allows me to lead all clubs and national teams globally.

2. So you’ve mainly coaches across the African Continent, can you tell us more?

After the initial success of coaching King Faisal in 2009, I returned home to Croatia after six months. Then I was invited by another club from the Uganda League, who championed the year before, together we entered the African Cup of Nations. I stayed there for a year, and after that, I got an invitation from Gor Mahia Club in Kenya. I stayed there for a year and a half, I won the Kenyan Cup with them, reached their top 8, but I lost the championship in the last round. That year I was the coach of the year in Kenya. After that, I moved to Tanzania to coach Simba FC. Gor Mahia FC Kenya and Simba FC Tanzania play Champions League most often in Africa. I stayed there for less than a year and won one cup with them. After Tanzania, I returned to Kenya and took over the Leopards FC. I saved them from being relegated to a lower rank. After a little less than a year, I moved to Angola and coached the Interclube Football Club. I spent a full year there, and I won the same cup in Angola. After Angola, I got a call from Ghana for Ashante Kotoko, the most popular club of the 20th century in Africa. I have been with them for less than a year since I received an invitation from Sudan for the Sudan national football team. I spent 2 years in Sudan with 40 million Arabs of the Muslim faith and a white man of the Catholic faith as a national team selector. I won third place at the Africa Championship, competition as the European Championship, but with the choice of a team from players who play in the local league. With them, I also qualified for the group stage with the World Cup in Qatar 2022. Then I got a call from the Zimbabwe National Football Team, which I took over last year. I managed to qualify with them for the African Cup of Nations, the best national teams that will compete for the African championship next year. Now in June, the qualifications for the World Cup will begin.


Zdravko as a coach of the Sudan National Team with his players after winning third place at the Africa Championship

3. What are some differences between football federations in Africa and Europe? 

Africans are very easygoing, whereas we Europeans are very strict when it comes to time. In Africa, when they say I’ll call you in a minute, they’ll call in a few hours. They have no stress. That’s one of the biggest differences I have experienced. Their way of living is very relaxed. In 2009 I remembered going to practice 45 minutes early. Practice starts at 9, and players only arrive at 10:30 am. They were carefree, singing, and without any stress. You have to be ready for surprises and to be able to quickly adapt to new environments as well as accept their culture. When I’m in Rome, I act like a Roman. I don’t come in and change everything about everyone. You’re there to do your job and respect the players. 

The difference when it comes to funding is huge. Croatian football has a budget of, let’s say, 15million dollars for qualifying for the World Cup, whereas, for Zimbabwe, they have a 1 million dollars budget per year. Zimbabwe qualified for the African Nations Cup, and the African Football Federation will pay them half a million dollars to prepare the cup. In contrast, in Europe, they can get 8-9 million dollars for the Champions league just for qualifying. It differs per country, but some governments award their national teams after gaining money from the African Cup, but some don’t. For example, Zimbabwe doesn’t sponsor the national team.

4. What about youth talent across the African continent? 

African football is getting closer to European football, it is not the same quality yet, but they are coming closer and closer. The difference is that football in Africa as a sport is very neglected due to lack of money, training conditions, and working with young categories. In Europe, children aged 8-9 already go to training 2-3 times a week. When they turn 18, they already have a higher quality of skills compared to 18-year-olds in Africa. Most players start playing professionally at 18 without a football background. Africans, in general, are very athletic; they are quick, explosive, and strong. When you put them in European football, very quickly, they can adapt and excel.
CHAN_Zimbabwe_Natonal_Football_Team.jpgZdravko with the Zimbabwe Natonal Football Team

5. How is it to be away from your family most of the time? 

My job is like a different story every week, and coaches are hired to be fired. One suitcase is always ready to go. You never know when you will get fired and move my family every few months and weeks. It’s too stressful because you don’t know what will happen. You can get fired after a couple of weeks or months, but the point is that you always get fired. It’s more safe and secure for my children to grow up in a place they can call home rather than moving across the world every few months.

6. Other than your family, what do you miss the most about home when you’re abroad?

Cuisine, lifestyle, language, closeness to family and friends. As a nomad, you lose a part of your social life being away from those closest to you, but everything has a price. The difference is Easter in Zimbabwe, where it passes, and no one notices it, and Easter at home in Croatia. It’s a different world you have to be able to adapt to. There are pros and cons, and you have the most out of every situation. Everyone has a different life story which would make for an incredible book.

7. How often do you get to come back home to Slavonski Brod?

As a national team coach, I don’t always have to be at work. It all depends on the job. When you work as a coach, you can train for a maximum of 8 months and a month of preparation before. So you as a coach can go home for a maximum of 2 months. But as a national team coach, when there aren’t many games, I can often come home. It’s a little easier for me now, and during the pandemic, I was home for 5 months. From the first 4 months of 2021, I have already spent 2 months at home, and this year I expect to have at least a month during the summer and then again to spend the whole of Decemeber at home. When my children were small, about 10-12 years old, they organized their lives without me. When you come, you confuse them with everything. My daughter asked, “Mom, when is Dad going? He messed everything up.” 


Zdravko Logarušić as a coach for Gor Mahia

8. Any plans to bring your family to Africa in the future?

They haven’t been to Africa yet but are now slowly considering coming to visit. Africa is not what CNN and domestic television show, which a lot of people don’t know. 20km from the capital, which is always shown on TV, is not the capital and cannot be compared. It’s like someone now goes 20km out of Split and says it’s Split when it doesn’t look like anything.

9. What are your plans for the future regarding coaching and where you’re based?

It is unknown now, and I do not know what is happening next week, what offer can come and where it could be in the world. For now, I am here, in Zimbabwe for the next year and a half, and then at the end of the contract, it will be known where, when, and how. It would be nice to open something in Croatia, but if it opens, no one in Croatia has stayed in one club for more than 2-3 years. It’s a job that goes contract from the contract, and something new is always sought.


Gor Mahia (Kenya) fan | Zdravko Logarušić Facebook

10. You’ve lived and coached across several countries; which one was your favorite? 

 I had my first big successes in Africa, the climate suited me in Kenya, and that is where I made my first big coaching steps. Every country has left me a fond memory, but in the end, it was all a positive experience. It’s the job I love, the adrenaline I live for, and what drives me. I work best when the pressure is high.

Are you part of the Croatian diaspora and would like to contribute your voice and experiences to this series? If yes, please contact [email protected] with the subject “Diaspora.”

For more about made in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

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