Are Arsenal the biggest club in East Africa?

Arsenal's prominence on the African continent continues to grow and Amit Acharya tells us of his experience in Kenya and Tanzania.

On a recent trip to Kenya and Tanzania it was very evident that Africa is football crazy; in particular European football. The Premier League is most popular. Everywhere you look children are playing football and if they are not playing they are walking around wearing their replica kits with pride.

It was also very obvious that the majority of people I saw supported either Manchester United or Arsenal. The dominance of these two clubs was so obvious that I would say that there was nearly double the number of these fans compared to the rest. It was also very obvious that Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur didn’t have much presence in these countries, I only saw one Manchester City fan and no Spurs fans.

If I had to stick my neck out and choose the kit I saw the most I would say Arsenal are slightly more popular than Manchester United. This is really odd considering the long period that Arsenal have had without winning a trophy and the fact that Arsenal only really has Gervinho as their star African player. On arrival in Nairobi city centre (capital of Kenya) I was greeted with a huge billboard showing Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere advertising Imperial bank, Arsenal’s Kenyan partners.

Smart commercial deals, a much defined style of play and past history of having success with African players could be a reason for Arsenal’s popularity. Players such as Kanu, Lauren and Kolo Toure played for the Gunners at a time when the Premier League was hitting it off in Africa. The Invincibles may have also played a big part in the clubs popularity.

Arsenal could use their popularity in East Africa to their advantage; this could be to attract young African players to the club in the future. The popularity of the club across East Africa is very different to their popularity in the UK. Many Arsenal fans have turned on Wenger over the last few years as well many people in the media criticising the clubs so called policy. Seeing so many fans having a very different perspective on the club has made me realise how lucky I am to go watch the team I support every week.

image: © lukas

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