Bandung (Indonesia) (AFP) – Former Chelsea, AC Milan and Real Madrid midfielder Michael Essien has signed for Indonesia’s Persib Bandung, the club announced Tuesday, the highest-profile player to join a team in the country for years.
The Ghanaian signed a one-year contract for an undisclosed sum to join Persib, which is one of the best clubs in the country. The 34-year-old had not been playing with a team since he left Greece’s Panathinaikos at the end of last season.
The news was announced at Persib’s headquarters in Bandung, on Java island, with Essien presented to the media wearing a team shirt.
But the move to Indonesia could turn out to be a shock.
Football in Southeast Asia’s biggest nation has been wracked by crisis for years, with an explosive row between the domestic association and government prompting FIFA to ban Indonesia from international competition in 2015.
The domestic league ground to a halt for a while amid the row, but FIFA lifted the suspension in May last year and football in the country is slowly starting to recover.
Foreign players have also been badly treated by Indonesian clubs, with at least two known to have died in recent years after going unpaid and being unable to afford medical treatment.
Essien is the best-known international footballer to join an Indonesian side since the 1990s, when Cameroon World Cup star Roger Milla and Argentine World Cup winner Mario Kempes both played in the country.
The club would not be drawn on how much they had paid for him.
“The contract value is large because he is former Chelsea player, I can not reveal (the amount),” said Teddy Tjahjono, one of the club’s directors.
Persib finished fifth in last year’s Indonesian Soccer Championship.
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