Football, like in other parts of the world, is hugely popular in Asia. The region which boasts the most population on the planet adores the round leather game. According to FIFA, one of the original homes of football is China — where it was known as “Cuju” or “Tsu-chu” (meaning kicking the ball).
Football is becoming more and more popular in Asia in the last two decades as South Korea and Japan hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2002, various FIFA Club World Cup finals were hosted in Asia, and Qatar set to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup — 20 years after the Korea/Japan edition.
Major football clubs in the world always strive to take advantage of the large population in Asia to boost their fan base, sell shirts, get sponsorships among other things. Thus many top European clubs organise their pre-season games and preparations in Asian countries.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG brings you the top 10 football clubs with the most fans in Asia.
1. MANCHESTER UNITED
The Red Devils are the most popular football club in Asia, enjoying huge followership, particularly in East Asian countries like Singapore, Indonesia Malaysia, South Korea, and China.
United’s tremendous success on the pitch in past decades earned them lots of admirers in the region. Having Asian players like Ji Sung Park and Shinji Kagawa in their team also contributed to their fanbase.
The Old Trafford outfit realised the importance of the Asian region very early and were among the first clubs to organise their pre-season games there. They also set up local academies and commercial offices in the region.
Manchester United’s superstar players like David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Wayne Rooney also helped in enhancing the club’s reputation in Asia.
Barcelona have a large fan base in Asia, with superstar players like Ronaldinho, Samuel Etoo, Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Gérard Pique, etc regularly featuring in Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) covers. Barca also regularly strikes partnership deals with Konami — the Japanese developers and publishers of PES.
Moreso, Barcelona had shirt sponsorship deals with Qatar Airways (Qatar) and are now being sponsored by Rakuten (Japan).
All these have earned Barcelona a large following in Asia — especially in Vietnam, Japan, and Indonesia.
Chelsea are one of the most supported clubs in the world. The Blues’ rise and tremendous success in the satellite TV era has helped them in that regard.
Chelsea’s supporting base in Asia was boosted by their long shirt sponsorship deal with electronics and tech giants Samsung (South Korea), Yokohama Tyres (Japan) and now, with Three (Hong Kong).
Chelsea, like other top clubs, regularly participate in pre-season tournaments in Asia.
4. REAL MADRID
Unlike in Africa, Real Madrid enjoys tremendous followership in Asia. They have huge supporters in Japan, the Middle East, and China — the most populous country in the world.
Madrid also have a long partnership deal with Fly Emirates —one of the two official national airlines of the United Arab Emirates. Although they have not had many Asian players, Los Blancos are one of the football clubs with the most fans in Asia.
Liverpool’s huge success in the 1990s and their incredible comeback victory in the 2005 UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan earned them admirers all around the world.
The presence of Mohamed Salah — an Egyptian Arab — has particularly won them lots of fans from the Arab World/Middle East in recent years.
The signing of Takumi Minamino has also boosted their popularity in Japan.
Arsenal have a long-term relationship with Fly Emirates, their official shirt sponsors who also contributed significantly to the building of their home ground (Emirates Stadium). The Gunners also have youth academies in Asia.
Arsenal enjoy huge followership in China and that was one of the reasons why they severed ties with Mesut Ozil after he criticised China for its maltreatment of Uighur Muslims, and then the Chinese government threatened to take action against Arsenal. Furthermore, a significant amount of Asian players have played at Arsenal, most recently is Japanese full-back, Takehiro Tomiyasu.
7. AC MILAN
AC Milan’s success in the 2000s and their signing of superstar players like Kaka, Ronaldo de Lima, Ronaldinho, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic earned them a solid fan base in Asia.
Even in their trying times, the presence of Japanese superstar, Keisuke Honda, made them popular in Japan. The Rossoneri (like Real Madrid and Arsenal) are also being sponsored by Fly Emirates.
8. MANCHESTER CITY
Man City’s success in the past decade and their Abu Dhabi-ruling-family owners has won them, admirers, in Asia, particularly in the Arab world.
Man City’s official shirt sponsor is Etihad Airways — the other official national air carrier of the United Arab Emirates.
City’s impressive brand of football under Guardiola is also a huge factor.
9. TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS
The presence of South Korean forward, Heung-min Son, coupled with their success in recent years has earned Tottenham many supporters in Asia, mostly in South Korea (Son’s country).
PSG are owned by the Qatari government, who have spent a lot to boost the club’s popularity in Asia. Signing superstar players like Ibrahimovic, Beckham, Neymar, Mbappe, Messi, etc., has been a huge factor in expanding PSG’s fan base in Asia.