Hendrie joins rogue Indonesian league

SINGAPORE - Former Aston Villa and England midfielder Lee Hendrie has signed for Bandung FC in Indonesia's breakaway football league.

Hendrie, who spent a decade at the English Premier League club from the mid-1990s, has penned a two-year deal and is expected to make his debut for the Javanese club on Saturday.

"He will act as a link-man and second striker who will supply our forwards... his presence will give us a lift," Bandung Chief Executive officer Mohamad Kusnaeni told Reuters on Thursday.

"He will be a role model for other players at Bandung FC given his experience playing in the best league in the world."

Capped once by England during his Villa days, Hendrie later dropped down divisions. He became a free agent earlier this month when he was released from a short-term deal at League Two side Bradford City.

An FA Cup runner-up and Intertoto Cup winner with Villa, 33-year-old Hendrie's signing to play in the Indonesian Premier League (LPI) marks his first spell outside England and will be a boon to the new Asian league.

"I am proud to have the opportunity," Hendrie said at the LPI's offices in Jakarta.

STAR APPEAL

Bandung, second bottom of the league with two defeats after two matches, aim to use Hendrie's star appeal to boost the growth of talent at the club.

"As a (globally known) player, Lee Hendrie will be appointed our football ambassador for coaching grassroot and youth development players in Bandung," Kusnaeni said.

The LPI is an independent professional football league launched earlier this month, backed by the sports minister but not the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI).

The PSSI's official top flight competition is the 18-club Indonesia Super League (ISL).

The 19-team LPI, including three who switched from the ISL, is the brainchild of oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro.

"The LPI is a reform league concept that meets with FIFA's direction 'For the Good of the Game' Task Force and AFC's Pro-League Committee," league official Abi Hasantoso told Reuters.

"The LPI was created to improve the achievements of national football."

Despite being ranked just 126th in the world by FIFA, Indonesian fans are among the most passionate in the world.

Other notable players to have plied their trade on the archipelago include Argentine World Cup winner Mario Kempes and Cameroonian striker Roger Milla.


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