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Ex-Blues Michael Essien and Carlton Cole made their debuts in Indonesia over the weekend

The former Chelsea teammates arrived at the club last month.

TOP-FLIGHT FOOTBALL returned to Indonesia over the weekend as former Chelsea stars Michael Essien and Carlton Cole made their debuts for Persib Bandung.

Essien and Cole played their first game for Persib, who finished fifth in last year’s Indonesian Soccer Championship, in front of almost 35,000 fans at the Gelora Bandung Lautan Api Stadium.

The 34-year-old Essien gave an impressive display in midfield, while Carlton Cole arrived off the bench in the second-half but failed to find the net in a 0-0 draw with Arema.

Essien, a two-time Premier League winner, will earn a reported salary of €800,000 after signing a one-year contract. Cole joined Persib just two weeks after his former Chelsea team-mate, follwing brief stints with Sacramento Republic in the US and at Scottish giants Celtic.

Persib coach Djadang Nurdjaman praised the Ghanian midfielder after the game.

“I am happy with his performance,” said Nurdjaman. ”He is now playing in a subtropical climate and still needs time to adapt. His touch is still special and he entertained the fans.”

It represented a significant milestone for Indonesian football, after after a two-year absence sparked by a major crisis.

Liga 1 replaces an old top-level league, which was halted in 2015 due to a row between the government and local FA that triggered turmoil and led to the country being hit with a one-year ban by FIFA.

The league is long-awaited and seen as a major boost for football in Southeast Asia’s biggest nation, with supporters hoping it could mark a turning point for the sport after years of problems.

In addition to the arrivals of Essien and Cole, ex-West Bromwich Albion forward Peter Odemwingie joined Madura United.

-Additional reporting by AFP

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