New Chelsea boss Bompastor is “the type of coach you don’t mess with,” claims ex-Lyon star

A former Olympique Lyonnais star has revealed what Sonia Bompastor is like as a coach, ahead of the 43-year-old being announced as Emma Hayes’ replacement at Chelsea.

Speaking at the House of WePlayStrong event in Bilbao ahead of Saturday’s UEFA Women’s Champions League final, Aston Villa midfielder Kenza Dali opened up on her experiences with Bompastor during her days at Lyon and spoke about the differences between playing in France and England.

Dali explained that Bompastor “was my coach in the academy, with Camille [Abily, now Bompastor’s assistant], and then I was with the first team when I was 16 – so Sonia was still playing, and Camille as well.”

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“She was an amazing left-back first of all, an amazing player and so competitive. I think if you ask one word about Sonia, it’s competitive. Every single drill at training was competitive with her. I was young and I was scared of her – all the times they gave the bibs, I was like ‘please not Sonia… if I lose the ball with Sonia, she’s gonna kill me!’”

“She’s the type of coach you don’t mess with,” Dali stressed, but insisted that the former French international is a “really nice human being… everyone who knows Sonia, knows that she was meant to be a manager.”

Dali voiced concerns about how Bompastor’s strict managerial style may translate to success in England, as the Aston Villa midfielder expressed that “people are going to find me old-school, but I think today [in England], we’re quite soft with the way we’re coaching.”

“I think we’re so nice as experienced players with the new generation when they come to training. Me, when I came with the first team, that was different. It was hard, they don’t apologise for everything.”

“It’s good that they safeguard and stuff [nowadays], but I think as a manager today in England, it’s so hard to coach because you can’t say everything that you think. It’s really soft. It’s not bad things to say,” she continued, “it’s really hard to coach today the new generation.”

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Overall though, Dali took the opportunity to praise the growth of women’s football in England and highlighted the media coverage of the game as one of the strongest aspects in particular. Addressing a pack of English journalists at the House of WePlayStrong event, the midfielder remarked “seeing you here when there’s no English team means everything. I’m not sure that if there wasn’t a French team in the Champions League final, a lot of French media would come.”

“I’ve found English marketing amazing – how they sell the product is amazing. When you score a goal in the WSL [Barclays Women’s Super League], there’s nine angles, you’ve got BBC, Sky Sports, it’s all around social media – everywhere.”

But there is still room for growth, she insists. “If there’s rain on the camera, what is that?,” she ponders, going on to add that “you don’t want to watch a camera that’s here [gestures to somewhere in the distance]… sometimes, we’ve got that on FA Player.”

Still, despite the shortfalls, Dali admits that the overall package for viewers in the WSL is much better than viewers of the French league. “It’s like you’re buying an iPhone,” she suggests. “If you have a shit one around you, you take the iPhone because it’s more pretty, it’s more beautiful. Football is the same, you need to sell a product with good stadiums, good cameras and then people watch.”

The House of WePlayStrong event took place in Bilbao on the morning of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final. UEFA’s WePlayStrong campaign is dedicated to celebrating and advancing women’s football across Europe.

The House of WePlayStrong included a variety of activities, speakers, and interactive experiences throughout the day.

This article was updated at 17:20 BST on 29 May, 2024 after Sonia Bompastor was confirmed as Chelsea’s new Head Coach.


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