Former Melbourne Victory, Brisbane Roar and Perth Glory utility Diogo Ferreira is loving life in southeast Asia and is primed to tackle a new challenge.
Ferreira made the move to Indonesia after being released by Glory in May 2016 after two years with the Western Australian club, and a change of scenery was exactly what was needed to revitalise his career after six years of professional football in Australia.
Now, after a brief yet successful spell with West Javan powerhouse Persib Bandung – the club boasts over two million followers on Twitter alone – the 27-year-old has moved to Malaysian Super League club Penang FA and is buzzing for another fresh experience.
Ferreira reflected on his time in Indonesia, saying his transfer to Persib, the home of former A-League stars Sergio van Dijk and Marcos Flores, helped rekindle his enjoyment of the game.
“I didn’t realise how big it (football) was until I got over there (Indonesia). It’s massive. The whole nation just loves football,” Ferreira said.
“I was lucky enough to have joined Persib Bandung, which is pretty much the biggest team in Indonesia, over five million followers throughout Indonesia.
“It (the Indonesian league) is actually really tough … it’s much more end to end, it’s much quicker and I think it comes down to maybe, the players tactically aren’t as good because maybe they haven’t been taught the right way from a young age.
“But technically the players are fantastic. They’re all really really sharp and it makes an end to end game, every game, attack defend, attack, defend.
“It (moving to Indonesia) is something that I wanted to do for a while. I always really liked southeastern countries and their cultures. It wasn’t that difficult for me.
“I felt professionally, I needed it. I felt like A-League was getting a bit stale for me. I needed something different. Different experience, different cultures, different method of training and different ways of thinking.
“I feel like at times, the A-League’s very repetitive. Everyone does the same preseason every year, very very structured. I just needed to start enjoying my football again and that’s why I went there, and it worked.
“I do take my football quite seriously, too seriously at times and it just got a bit repetitive for me. I didn’t start enjoying it and unfortunately in the A-League, yeah, you make some decent money, but it got to the point where I was starting to consider whether it was worth the sacrifices.”
A rule change brought about an end to Ferreira’s four-month stay with Persib. Indonesian clubs’ foreign player quota was rejigged to allow two foreigners and one ‘plus one’ Asian-registered player.
Well in excess of two international players, Ferreira was let go by the club and was snapped up by Penang, headed by Englishman Ashley Westwood.
Forty-year-old Westwood, a former Manchester United junior, joined Penang in November after a three-year stay in charge of Indian I-League team Bengaluru.
Ferreira’s move to Penang brought with it the achievement of personal aims, and the ex-Australia under-23 international is lapping up the “world class” setup Westwood has instilled.
Ultimately, Ferreira is loving football again.
“I had a great spell at Persib … Persib opted to go a different way and to be honest, luckily enough I didn’t put pen to paper on an early date and I get to come over here (Malaysia) now and experience a new league, different culture again,” Ferreira added.
“Before I went over to Indonesia, I sat down and tried to work out what my goals and plans were going to be for the next year or so. My major goal was to go to Indonesia, obviously have a good season and try and get into Malaysia and Thailand and that’s worked out.
“I have settled in quickly (in Malaysia) because … there’s a new coach here, Ashley Westwood, he was formerly in India. The setup he’s bringing to Penang is honestly world class. I really doubt that there is many clubs in southeast Asia that are doing things the way we are.
Extremely pleased to announce that I have signed with PENANG FA in the Malaysian Super League for the 2017 season. Straight into hard work! pic.twitter.com/H5P2hISoTo
— Diogo Ferreira (@dferreira_5) January 11, 2017
“He’s leaving no stones unturned, very professional. It’s been a very easy transition. There’s a lot more players that speak english as well which makes it much easier.
“You hear a lot of stories about these countries and the football here and how things can turn upside down. I heard a few of those boys (Australian players in Malaysia) were doing really well and still got released. It is very unpredictable.
“But I’m starting to enjoy my football again. I’ve come here to a good club, to a good, stable club with good people in charge.”