Jewish-owned Chelsea football club is by far the most popular English soccer team in the Middle East, according to an analysis by Twitter.
The London team, which seems set to win this season’s Premier League, is the most followed in Jordan, the West Bank, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman, the Twitter research found.
Supporters in the region are evidently unfazed by the fact that Chelsea is owned by a Jewish, pro-Israel billionaire, the Russian-born oligarch Roman Abramovich.
The analysis was published last week, complete with interactive map.
Chelsea is also the most-supported team in Israel, where Abramovich recently purchased a NIS 100 million (some $25 million) Tel Aviv hotel, and where he and his entourage booked out an entire hotel for the Passover holiday a year ago. Abramovich also employed his friend, the former Israel national soccer coach Avram Grant, as Chelsea’s coach in the 2007-2008 season.
Second-most popular in many Middle Eastern countries is rival London team Arsenal, owned by US entrepreneur Stan Kroenke (often incorrectly reported as being Jewish). The club’s second-largest shareholder is Alisher Usmanov, an Uzbek-born Russian businessman who is Muslim and is married to a Jew.
Arsenal is the most popular English team in Iran, followed by Manchester United and Chelsea.
The two Manchester teams, City and United, come second or third in several Middle Eastern countries. City is owned by the Abu Dhabi United Group of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan; United’s largest shareholder is the Glazer Group, whose Jewish patriarch, Malcom Glazer, died last year.
Manchester City is not even the most popular club in The United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is part and Sheikh Mansour is deputy prime minister; that honor goes to Arsenal, followed by Chelsea, with Manchester City third.
Further afield, the Guardian reported, “Arsenal are big in Japan (and London); Chelsea are the most popular club in Russia and Cuba; and Manchester United are winning the race for fans in South Africa and India.”