Former Chelsea star Michael Essien, 34, signed a one-year contract to join Persib FC, one of the top football teams in Indonesia. Persib FC, which is based in Bandung (West Java), won the League One (formerly known as the Indonesian Super League) in 2014. Ghanaian-born Essien, a "box-to-box" midfielder, who was without a club after leaving Greece's Panathinaikos in 2016, was presented at the Gelora Bandung Lautan Api Stadium in Bandung on Tuesday (14/03).
After his presentation earlier today, Essien will first travel to London before heading back for Indonesia 10 days later to resume his football career. The 2016 season of Indonesia's League One is scheduled to start on 26 April 2017. After leaving Panathinaikos in mid-2016, Essien had been without a club for six months. During these months he trained with Chelsea's reserve team. He rejected an offer from Australia's Melbourne Victory in September 2016.
Besides Chelsea, where he played between 2005 and 2014, Essien played for Lyon, Milan and Real Madrid. He represented Ghana 58 times, including two World Cups.
On Persib TV Essien explained he selected the Bandung team for its rich history, large fan base, and the club's goal to dominate Indonesian football. Persib was set up in 1933 under the name Bandoeng Inlandsche Voetbal Bond (BIVB), a nationalist-minded association during the colonial days.
Indonesia is a weak football nation, ranking a modest 167th on the FIFA World Ranking (per 9 March 2017). Therefore, the transfer of Essien is remarkable. Rarely (former) top football players decide to continue their professional football career in Indonesia. Only Cameroon hero Roger Milla and Argentine World Cup winner Mario Kempes had (short) careers in Indonesia in the 1990s.