Bandung (Indonesia) (AFP)
Michael Essien and Carlton Cole are facing problems in Indonesia
after their new club admitted it had not obtained work permits
for the ex-English Premier League players.
The two were signed with great fanfare last month by Persib
Bandung, one of the country's best clubs, in a boost for
Indonesian football as it seeks to bounce back from a FIFA
suspension and launch a new league.
But the club is now set to be questioned by immigration
authorities after the government-backed Professional Sports
Agency found the players did not have the required work permits.
The club admitted Monday the players, who made their debuts in
the country's new top-flight Liga 1 at the weekend, did not yet
have the necessary documents.
Persib said it had sought to process the paperwork a few days
before their first match. The permits were not ready on time, but
the football association and league organiser gave them
permission to play.
Manager Umuh Muchtar accused the sports agency, which reports to
the government and monitors foreign players in the country, of
going too far.
"That they are here is a joy for us, they want to raise up
Indonesia's name in the world," he said.
He added: "Everybody knows that Essien is a world-class player,
not an illegal immigrant."
Immigration authorities Monday summoned the club management but
it was not clear when the questioning would take place.
Immigration official Agustianur, who like many Indonesians goes
by one name, said: "They are professionals so they must hold a
(work) permit to perform activities in Indonesia."
The official did not indicate what next steps authorities may
Essien, who is Ghanaian, has played for Chelsea, AC Milan and
Real Madrid. England's Cole has played for Chelsea and West Ham.
Liga 1 replaces an old top-level league, which was halted in 2015
due to a row between the government and Indonesian FA that
triggered turmoil and led to the country being hit with a
one-year ban by FIFA.
The new league and big-name signings are a major boost for
football in Southeast Asia's biggest nation, which has faced
problems for years.