Southeast Asia Indonesia

The Pratama Arhan Effect – Tokyo Verdy Became the Most Followed J.League Club on Instagram

He has yet to play a single minute for Tokyo Verdy, but Pratama Arhan’s brief presence within the club has brought significant attention to Verdy’s social media accounts, particularly Instagram. Legions of Indonesian fans swarm Verdy’s official Instagram, making them the J.League’s most-followed club on the platform in a matter of days after the announcement of Arhan’s signing.

Legions of fans from a certain country mass-following a particular club due to the presence of a player from their country isn’t a new phenomenon on social media. Liverpool experienced a surge of Egyptian followers following their signing of Mohamed Salah back in 2017, while Manchester City saw an increase of Algerian fans due to the signing of Riyad Mahrez in 2018.

Even in Japan, such a phenomenon has occurred before quite recently, when Kenyan football fans took an interest in the official social media accounts of Kashiwa Reysol, who had Michael Olunga in their books from 2018 to 2021.

Indonesian football fans are unquestioned in terms of passion and fanaticism and they often follow the progression of their players intently. This includes following foreign clubs who have Indonesian players in their ranks – though this could lead to said clubs being accused of exploiting the passion of Indonesian football fans as mere marketing schemes, like what Lechia Gdansk experienced following the departure of Egy Maulana Vikri in 2021. The fact that Egy rarely featured in Lechia’s first team throughout his tenure there made Indonesian football fans accuse the Polish club of using the talented youngster as a mere “pawn” in leveraging their image within the Indonesian market.

Though Arhan has yet to feature for Verdy – his move to Japan being complicated by the country’s COVID-19 measures – the excellent progression displayed by Asnawi Mangkualam at Korean second-tier side Ansan Greeners as well as the flourishing of both Egy and Witan Sulaeman at Slovakian outfit FK Senica made Indonesian football fans optimistic that Verdy would put Arhan into good use in the upcoming 2022 J.League 2 season.

Swarms of Indonesian fans flooded Verdy’s official Instagram accounts, particularly those discussing Arhan. The club took this to their advantage and began posting content in Bahasa Indonesia to engage further with their new fanbase.

The volume of Indonesian fans following Verdy’s official Instagram made the account’s following count skyrocket from around 30000 prior to Arhan’s signing to a whopping 286000, the most for a J.League club. This eclipsed the 280000 followers that Vissel Kobe had – a number that the Hyogo Prefecture-based club had earned thanks to the presence of international stars such as Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Thomas Vermaelen, Lukas Podolski, and Bojan Krkic in recent years.

The huge growth of Verdy’s Instagram followers in a matter of days did not escape the attention of the club’s players. As quoted from Okezone, Verdy midfielder Koken Kato expressed his pleasant surprise at his club’s social media growth, praising that Arhan was a “good influencer” and hoping that his presence would elevate the club further.