Japan’s World Cup journey may have come to an end, but the team is leaving a lasting legacy for their actions off the field.
Despite giving up three goals in the final 25 minutes of Monday’s game against Belgium, resulting in a final score of 3-2, Japan made sure to take the time to clean up their locker room following their heartbreaking defeat.
The team left the dressing room spotless, and even left behind a note that read “Thank you” in Russian, in honor of the tournament’s host country, according to a photo first shared by FIFA coordinator Priscilla Janssens.
Japanese fans also did their part, continuing their tradition of tidying up the stands following games.
This was Japan’s dressing room after heart breaking injury-time defeat by Belgium. They left it spotless… and even a note saying ‘thank you’ in Russian. #sweepthedecks https://t.co/91dF07qpXw pic.twitter.com/RTXB4ChHhO
— Training Ground Guru (@ground_guru) July 3, 2018
— Football Stands (@TheFootyStands) July 3, 2018
— Indy Football (@IndyFootball) July 2, 2018
Japan was first praised for their courtesy after their win over Colombia last month. Fans pulled out garbage bags they brought along to pick up the trash around their seats in the Mordovia Arena.
“This is my favourite moment of the World Cup so far; Japan fans picking up litter after their victory vs Columbia,” Twitter user Christopher McKaig captioned a video capturing the good deed. “The lessons in life we can take from the game.”
Japanese fans were praised for similar actions at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where they stayed behind after the game to tidy up.
This is my favourite moment of the World Cup so far; Japan fans picking up litter after their victory vs Columbia. The lessons in life we can take from the game. Why I support #class#respect#WorldCup pic.twitter.com/FyYLhAGDbi
— Christopher McKaig (@Coachmckaig) June 19, 2018
— Mothership.sg (@MothershipSG) June 19, 2018
Japan-based sports journalist Scott McIntyre told the BBC he was not at all surprised by the post-game clean-up effort.
“It’s not just part of the football culture but part of Japanese culture,” he said. “You often hear people say that football is a reflection of culture. An important aspect of Japanese society is making sure that everything is absolutely clean and that’s the case in all sporting events and certainly also in football.”
Scott North, professor of sociology at Osaka University, told the outlet that cleanliness is a trait instilled in the country’s people from childhood.
“In addition to their heightened consciousness of the need to be clean and to recycle, cleaning up at events like the World Cup is a way Japanese fans demonstrate pride in their way of life and share it with the rest of us,” he explained. “What better place to make a statement about the need to care responsibly for the planet than the World Cup?”