Bandung - Indonesian authorities on Tuesday banned Michael
Essien and Carlton Cole from playing until they get work permits after their
new club did not obtain the necessary documents for the ex-English Premier
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 government-backed Professional Sports Agency found
the players did not have the required work permits.
The club admitted they had not finished processing the
paperwork for the pair before they made their debuts in the country's new
top-flight Liga 1 at the weekend.
After calling in the players and Persib's management for
questioning, immigration authorities said on Tuesday the pair would not be able
to play until they obtained the permits.
"Today we gave a strong warning to Persib in the form
of a letter saying that as long as Persib had not completed the permits, which
should be issued by the manpower ministry, we are banning Essien and Cole from
playing," said Maulia Purnamawati, the immigration chief in Bandung, the
city where the club is based.
Persib said they would abide by the ban while working to get
the permits. Joko Driyono, the secretary general of the country's football
association, said they would help the club in obtaining the documents.
Persib said it had sought to process the paperwork a few
days before the stars' first match on Saturday. The permits were not ready on
time, but the football association and league organiser gave them permission to
Driyono said the association had granted permission for
Persib to field Essien and Cole over the weekend because the process to get the
permits was "not easy nor fast".
Club manager Umuh Muchtar accused the sports agency, which
reports to the government and monitors foreign players in the country, of going
"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."
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