Even if Steve Khompela has yet to win major titles with Free State Stars, he does remain fascinating - both as a coach and person.
The coach’s insistence on flair play wasn't the only uncharacteristic thing about him. Stars play a 3-5-2 with dynamic pressing, which makes the side more European in style. Despite Stars' excellent performances, Khompela still found himself under fire in a country that prides itself on its footballing identity. Khompela’s 3-5-2 system is expected to do likewise.
It’s predicated upon extreme physical fitness in order for the team to play at the high tempo required. Off the ball, the team presses aggressively, high up the pitch - well into their opponents half, in a style dissimilar to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
The aim is to win the ball as close to the opposition’s goal as possible, and attack directly, in numbers and at pace. But despite Khompela’s relative success at International level for the U/23’s, it’s a commonly held belief that sporadic international get-togethers don’t afford particularly detail-focused coaches the chance to fully implement their methods.
Club-level coaching with Stars has allowed Khompela to drum his ideas into a talented squad of players on a daily basis.
This is a coach who has been known to train players in different positions at different times to work on specifics relating to their roles. A Khompela led Stars going hell for leather against the big guns is a thriller to watch.
By Lucas Mogale