West Ham United stars Mark Noble and Declan Rice say they’re flattered that they are idolised by some of the club’s passionate foreign fans.
The global appeal of the Premier League means clubs like West Ham are growing sizeable fanbases in far flung corners of the world.
A new Betway documentary has attempted to find out why fans living in other countries support particular teams.
‘Over Land and Sea’ tells the story of Pan, a West Ham fan who was born and lives in Shanghai, China. Pan says that he started supporting the club after playing the Football Manager game and that Noble is his favourite player.
The Hammers’ skipper admits that being admired by fans from a foreign country feels strange, particularly with so many other world stars to choose from.
“It’s a little bit surreal to be honest,” he said “I don’t see myself as someone’s hero, especially with all the players out there that he can follow.
“There’s Messi, Ronaldo, but he took a real liking for me. For someone on the other side of the world to appreciate what you’ve done is pretty special.”
In addition to Noble and Rice, the video also features Pablo Zabaleta and two local fans who travelled to China to watch the team play in the Premier League Asia Trophy.
Rice says the opportunity to interact with fans who live thousands of miles away was a thrilling experience.
“It’s been ridiculous!” said Rice. “The amount of fans that know my name and have been shouting. Asking for pictures, asking for autographs – it’s just crazy to be honest.”