Although the Indonesian football competition is barely known across its borders, some remarkable foreign players of international allure have played in Indonesia over the years. Some more legendary than others, some who lived up to their reputation and others who failed miserably. From World Cup and Champions League winners to players awarded with the golden shoe. We have captured 10 of the most remarkable names in football who have played in the Liga 1 in Indonesia.
1. Carlton Cole – Persib Bandung 2017
In the 2017 season, Carlton Cole struck down in Bandung as the new arrival at Persib Bandung. Cole made his debut in 2002 for Chelsea but never came back after a severe injury. Until 2006 when he arrived at West Ham and continued to play there for seven seasons, scoring 57 goals in 259 matches. Besides that, he got 7 caps on his name for England’s national team. Unfortunately for both Persib and Cole, the relationship didn’t really turn out to be successful. Cole played 5 matches without scoring any goal and left through the back door.
2. Eric Djemba Djemba – Persebaya Bhayangkara 2015
Another player that might ring a bell for fans of the beautiful game. He got signed at Manchester United to replace their legendary captain Roy Keane, but he wasn’t able to fill those shoes. After wandering past several small football nations, he eventually made a transfer to Persebaya Bhayangkara, but never made an appearance due to a suspension of the Indonesian football league by the FIFA that season.
3. Marco Motta – Persija 2020 – present
One of the latest arrivals in the Liga 1 that has a well-known name, is Italian right back Marco Motta. Although his career mostly took place at less known clubs in the Italian Serie A, he did manage to play 54 matches for As Roma and Juventus between 2009 and 2015. Due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, we haven’t been able to see Motta perform for Persija Jakarta. We wonder how long his stay in the capital will last.
4. Christian Gonzales – PSM Makassar 2003-2004, Persik Kediri 2005-2008, Persib Bandung 2009-2011, Putra Samarinda 2011-2012, Arema 2013-2017, Madura United 2018, PSS Sleman 2018-2019, PSIM Yogyakarta 2019-2020
Based on his performance, appearance, and loyalty to Indonesia, this player should be at the top of the list. But this Uruguayan-born Indonesian footballer is probably not really well known outside of the Indonesian borders. Over the course of 20 years, he has managed to crown himself four-time top scorer of the Indonesian league and became champion once (2006). Besides that, his fiery nature made him collect several suspensions for hitting the management of the opponent, spitting on a referee, and fighting with opponent players and caused a media stir. To top it all off he was the first foreign player to be naturalised and play for the national team of Indonesia. A real-life legend in the Indonesian football community.
5. Peter Odemwingie – Madura United 2017 – 2018
Another familiar name for many football fans. The left-footed Nigerian international who played in the French Ligue 1, The Russian Liga 1, and the English Premier League perched at Madura United in the 2017-2018 season. Even though he only stayed for one season, he managed to score 15 goals in 24 appearances, watch 7 of them in this compilation.
6. Didier Zokora – Semen Padang 2017
In 2017 Semen Padang managed to surprise football fans in Indonesia by signing the hard tackler on the midfield by the name of Didier Zokora. The former Tottenham Hotspur and Sevilla midfielder struck down in Sumatra but only managed to make 11 appearances not leaving a lasting impression. He did leave a lasting impression for his country, Ivory Coast. As he has played 123 games as an international to defend the colors of his country.
7. Sylvano Comvalius – Bali United 2017, Arema 2019, Persipura Jayapura 2020
Perhaps a less known name compared to the other Premier League and Serie A players on this list, but definitely word mentioning due to his performance in the 2017 season with Bali United and his appearance as a player. He played a big part in the rise of Bali United.
Comvalius is a Dutch-born player and a true football nomad. Having played for 12 clubs in 8 different countries in his 11 years prior to Bali United. His 2017 season at Bali United turned out to be the most productive year in his career, as he managed to score 37 goals in 34 appearances. Earning the title as the all-time goal scorer in a single season in the Indonesian league. In addition to his phenomenal stats, his striking beard and muscled appearance really stood out compared to the relatively small, local players. A well-known name in the Indonesian football game!
8. Michael Essien – Persib Bandung 2017
Number 8 on our list is the former Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder and UEFA Champions League winner. Michael Essien! His signing in Indonesia caused a complete media circus and football fans lining up to catch a glimpse of this football star.
A true star for Ghana and Chelsea in his prime years in the Premier League where he managed to win the League twice and won four FA Cups. He was one of the first million transfers for Chelsea with his transfer fee being above 40 million Euro. Together with colleague Carlton Cole, he played one season for Persib Bandung, making 29 appearances and scoring 5 goals for the club
9. Mario Kempes – Pelita Jaya 1996
For number 9 on our list, we are diving back in history. For many younger fans, Mario Kempes might not ring a bell but ask your parents and grandparents about this former legend to learn he is a world champion with Argentina. He played three world cups for his country(1974, 1978, and 1982), where his most successful year was 1978 when he became topscorer off the tournament and winning the world cup. On club level, he managed to score 116 goals in 171 appearances for Valencia in the Primera Division. Crowning him top scorer of the Primera Division in 1977 and 1978. He closed off his career with 12 goals in 18 appearances for Pelita Jaya FC in 1996.
10. Roger Milla – Pelita Jaya 1994-1995 & Putra Samarinda 1995-1996
Perhaps the most shocking name to have ever played in the Indonesian League is all-time legend and star of Cameroon, Roger Milla. Who became a legend by scoring four goals at the 1990 World Cup at an age of 38 years old(!), helping Cameroon to become the first African team to reach the World Cup quarter-finals. Besides that, he became well known due to his special and athletic goal celebrations that formed a source of inspiration for many present-day players. Milla managed to rack up 413 goals in 747 games throughout his career and played mostly in France. Just like superstar Mario kempes, he closed off his career with two seasons in Indonesia, playing for Pelita Jaya & Putra Samarinda where he scored 41 goals in just 35 games while he already passed age 42. Real-life proof that age doesn’t always matter that much!
And with Roger Milla, we have come to the end of the 10 most remarkable players to have played in Indonesian football. Do you think we missed out on any famous players? Let us know by leaving a comment in the section below.
Bonus: Melvin Platje – Bali United 2017 – present
A bonus on our list we can’t leave out the Dutch striker who currently plays for Bali United. Although Melvin Platje is not really known around the world, he did manage to acquire cult hero status in the Netherlands as a “super-sub” in the Dutch Second Division and Eredivisie. Platje got his name out by scoring one beauty after another when he got subbed in, late in the game, earning himself a transfer to the Dutch Eredivisie. Have a look at some of these beauties here.
In addition, his name contributed to his cult hero status. As this can be loosely translated to pubic lice. Platje currently gained a bit of hero status in Bali as well. By crowning themselves as champions for the first time in Bali United’s history, causing a Balinese local to name his son after the striker (Putu Platje).