Domestic Leagues

The search for Asia's Most Popular Football Club: Tractor SC, Persepolis FC through to final

Kuala Lumpur: Tractor SC and Persepolis FC have advanced to the final of the Search for Asia's Most Popular Football Club after finishing as the two highest ranked teams in Central and South Asia poll.

The Islamic Republic of Iran sides garnered a combined total of 90% of the votes cast in the regional poll aimed at finding the Continent's most popular club.

The two now await their opponents in the final, with polling in the East section ending on Tuesday.

The polls for the ASEAN and West regions start on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, with the final of the Search for Asia's Most Popular Football Club kicking off on December 27.

Check out the Central and South Asia nominees and results below.

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Tractor SC
Tabriz, Islamic Republic of Iran

We begin with the most popular club from last month’s IR Iran poll, the Tabriz-based FC Tractor, formerly known as Tractorsazi.

While they have never advanced beyond the AFC Champions League Round of 16, Tractor have proven to be one of the most passionately supported clubs anywhere in Asia, attracting huge crowds to the 67,000-capacity Yadegar-e-Imam Stadium.

Founded in 1950, the club has won two Hazfi Cups since 2014, and was the first professional club of one of Iran’s all-time greats, Karim Bagheri.

SC East Bengal
Kolkata, India

The winner of our most popular Indian club poll, and a club with 100 years of history behind, East Bengal have long captured the imagination of football fans in Kolkata and beyond.

The great rivals of Mohun Bagan, East Bengal are Indian football’s most successful clubs, winning more than 100 trophies from the 1940s onwards, including a record 39 Calcutta Football League titles in the space of 76 years.

FC Nasaf
Qarshi, Uzbekistan

Central Asia’s most popular club in our November poll, FC Nasaf are also the only club from Uzbekistan to have won continental silverware, beating Kuwait SC to lift the AFC Cup in 2011.

They have never won their own domestic league, but Nasaf are a true ‘people’s club’, drawing significant support in the southern region of Uzbekistan.

Persepolis FC
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

A powerhouse on and off the pitch, Persepolis have won the last four Iran Pro League titles and will have the chance to become AFC Champions League winners for the first time when they face Ulsan Hyundai in Saturday’s final in Doha.

A club which has been the home of the likes of Ali Daei, Karim Bagheri, Khodadad Azizi and Mehdi Mahdavikia, plus many more, Persepolis remain an institution for Iranians all over the world and belong in any list of Asia’s most popular clubs.

Esteghlal FC
Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran

Persepolis are one half of the Tehran derby - potentially the biggest league fixture anywhere in the continent - and Esteghlal are the other, and while they can’t match their city rivals’ domestic title haul, they hold the edge in continental competitions.

Taj Tehran – the original name of Esteghlal – became the first Iranian club to win the Asian Club Championship in 1970, and Esteghlal repeated the feat by beating Liaoning FC in the 1990-91 Final.

Mohun Bagan FC
Kolkata, India

As Persepolis and Esteghlal have battled for local glory in Tehran, Mohun Bagan have been the eternal rivals of East Bengal, with the Kolkata derby producing legendary clashes in front of some of the largest crowds seen anywhere in world football.

With a history spanning more than 130 years, the club, like East Bengal, enjoyed decades of domestic success. They recently merged with ATK to become ATK Mohun Bagan and are competing in the Indian Super League for the first time in the 2020-21 season.

FC Pakhtakor
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s inter-generational super club, no team from former-Soviet Central Asia has managed to deliver success across through the decades like Pakhtakor.

The club twice finished in the top six of the powerful Soviet top flight, became the first Central Asian club to reach the Soviet Cup final in 1968 and are now the standout club in the current Uzbekistan Super League, winning the last two titles by a combined total of 32 points.

Kerala Blasters FC
Kochi, India

The youngest club on our list, Kerala Blasters were only established in 2014, but have tapped into the enthusiasm of one of India’s most football-obsessed regions to establish themselves as an off-field powerhouse with hordes of fans supporting the club at the famed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Due to their relative youth, the club has yet to secure its first piece of major silverware, but they have gone close, finishing as runners-up in the Indian Super League play-offs of 2014 and 2016.

FC Alay
Osh, Kyrgyz Republic

The pride of Kyrgyz Republic’s south, Alay were founded in 1960, have taken the city of Osh all the way to intercontinental competition and were voted the second most popular club in Central Asia last month.

The club never reached the top levels of Soviet football, but their most successful era came in the mid 2010s, when they won four Kyrgyz Republic league titles from 2013 to 2017 and participated in five editions of the AFC Cup.

*Poll ends on December 20, 12:00 (UTC+8)

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