The Blues are nowhere near the oldest clubs in the world, yet they do enjoy a huge fan base in Africa. How can this be?
Chelsea’s presence in Africa made their debut when South African Ralph Olofsi became the first African to play for the Blues during their 1-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion on 1 March 1952.
That historic moment brought the club to the consciousness of Africans who at that time supported home clubs such as Real Madrid, Manchester United, AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Ajax, not forgetting Nottingham Forest.
Although there are African-born talents such as Derek Smithhurst, Colin Filjoen, Roy Vigerl, Mark Stein, Joel Kitameric and Marcel Desai at the London club, their fan base in Africa has remained anemic.
Surprisingly, the club’s following on the world’s second largest and second most populous continent saw a massive increase after Roman Abramovich took over from Ken Bates as owner of giants Stamford Bridge in 2003.
Goal Try to explain why!
What are the factors driving Chelsea’s popularity in Africa?
The club’s association with famous African players can be attributed to this rise in the fan base. First, Celestine Babayaro joined the team in 1997 from Anderlecht for a transfer fee of £2.25m – a club record paid for a teenager at the time.
After three seasons, 1995 Ballon d’Or winner George Weah moved to the club on loan from AC Milan.
Following the arrival of Jose Mourinho, several prominent African players such as Didier Drogba, Michael Essien, Salomon Kalou, Jeremy Ngitab and John Obi Mikel were acquired and included in his star-studded squad.
The season in, the season, more African players joined the ranks of Chelsea and played key roles in the club’s title exploits.
Naturally, football fans from the countries of the players followed the London side with keen interest, trying to monitor the performance of their champions.
It is worth noting that since the inception of the club until now, 18 players selected by African countries have participated in the ranks of the Stamford Bridge giants.
The presence of Africans also reverberates off the field as seen in former Nigeria international Michael Emenalo, who went from chief scout to assistant first-team coach to become Chelsea’s coach.
Under his watch, he was credited with supervising scouts and transferring players such as Thibaut Courtois, Mohamed Salah, N’Golo Kante, Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas.
In addition, the club’s successes in tournaments such as the Uefa Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup and English Football League may also have been compounded by the engineering growth of the fans.
Which African country has the most Chelsea fans
Since Chelsea’s founding in 1905, players from Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Cameroon, South Africa, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Liberia, South Africa, Uganda, DR Congo, Sierra Leone and Senegal have played. .
According to the English giants website, registered fans are based in Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe. However, he does not rule out the fact that Chelsea supporters are scattered all over the continent.
While many may naturally feel that Nigeria is home to the largest number of English club fans in Africa due to it being the most populous country, the number of Nigerians fitting into the Premier League is a major motivator.
Furthermore, some of the biggest stars in the African entertainment industry like Davido, Mr. P, Rude Boy, Flavor, 9ice, Genevieve Nnaji and Mercy Aigbe – all Nigerians – are Chelsea fans with a large following on social media.
The main stars behind Chelsea’s huge fan base in Africa
Drogba is arguably the most successful player in Africa to have ever worn the Chelsea shirt. Aside from scoring 136 goals in 381 appearances for the Blues, he has inspired the Londoners with numerous titles with his captivating performances.
Besides the Ivorian, John Obi Mikel, Michael Essien, George Weah and Samuel Eto’o have all starred during their tenures at Stamford Bridge that have shaped the growing fan base in Africa over the years.