The Indonesian careers of Michael Essien and Carlton Cole have hit an early obstacle as Persib Bandung take on PS TNI for the second game of the Liga 1 season on Saturday without their two high-profile imports.
The former English Premier League stars made their debuts on April 15 in a goalless draw at home to Arema, amid great fanfare and international interest. But their hopes of helping Persib pick up a first win of 2017 have been dashed due to red tape.
Essien and Cole were reported to the West Java immigration office earlier this week as it was claimed that neither had valid residence permits, known as Kitas, or work permit.
"We've asked Persib to not field [Essien and Cole] before they obtain the proper status," Bandung Immigration Office head Maulia Purnamawati told domestic media.
Their debut, in which Essien was substituted 14 minutes from the end, and Cole came off the bench at the start of the second half, was actually illegal as they were in the country of temporary visitor permits.
"It takes 11 days actually to obtain a Kitas if you only possess a temporary stay visa," Maulia said. "We have asked Persib not to field foreign players who do not have valid work permits."
Maulia added that the club had attempted to obtain permits at the Ministry of Labor, but that the necessary paperwork had not yet been completed. Persib are hoping that the matter is sorted by April 29 and the visit of Sriwijaya.
Another of the favourites for the title are still settling after a frantic start to the new season. Just days before the big kickoff, Persipura Jayapura replaced Argentine Angel Alfredo Vera as head coach with assistant Liestiadi. The team drew 1-1 in the opener and face a tough game at Bali United.
Much will depend on the form of star Boaz Solossa. The forward shone at the AFF Suzuki Cup in November and December, helping Indonesia to the final. Bali coach Hans Peter-Schaller was assistant during that tournament and knows the veteran well.
"Boaz is a great player. His left foot is something special," Peter-Schaller said ahead of Saturday's clash. I'm glad to be able to see him again. I am also still in good communication with Boaz," he said.
With the visitors going through a transition period, the Austrian coach is confident that Bali can get something from the game.
"Persipura I think also still have not found their best form yet. We are optimistic we can win especially when we play at home, "said Peter-Schaller
Persija Jakarta kicked off the season with a 2-0 win at Persiba Balikpapan and host Barito Putera for a first home game this season. On Monday, PSM will also be looking to maintain a perfect start to the season with a visit to Mitra Kukar.