National

Samurai Blue and fans win praise for clean exit, and dignity in defeat

by Jesse Johnson

Staff Writer

Despite a heartbreaking defeat and exit from the World Cup in Russia on Monday, the Japan national team and its supporters have again won plaudits on social media not only for their fair play and sportsmanship, but also for thoroughly cleaning up the stadium, bench and dressing room.

The team lost in the final seconds of its last-16 match against Belgium by a score of 3-2, after taking a 2-0 lead early in the second half. But even while grappling with the devastating defeat, both the fans and players continued a tradition they have maintained throughout this World Cup — cleaning up their section of the stadium, some with tears still in their eyes.

A Japan supporter is no longer able to hold back emotion, after the national team
A Japan supporter is no longer able to hold back emotion, after the national team’s loss to Belgium in a round of 16 match at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Rostov Arena, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday. | AP

FIFA General Director Priscilla Janssens tweeted a picture Tuesday of Japan’s spotless dressing room, praising the team and its fans for their tidy-up efforts and manners and also writing that the team had even left a thank-you note in Russian for the hosts.

“What an example for all teams!! Privilege to work with!” she wrote in a tweet that was shared more than 45,000 times and liked nearly 80,000 times as of Tuesday afternoon.

But Janssens was not the only one praising the Japanese team.

“Japanese are some of the best people you will ever meet, so respecting and so humble,” one Twitter user wrote. “Them cleaning up the stadium is also a great gesture.”

Japanese fans also expressed a sense of pride, thanking the team and supporters for their dignity in defeat.

“I’m proud of the Japanese side’s good manners, regardless of the outcome of the game,” one user wrote. “And although I’m a soccer fan once every four years, I still want to thank the Japanese side for allowing us to dream.”

Japan supporters were also applauded for helping to clean up the stadium after earlier games in the tournament — a practice that Western media outlets gushed over. The scene was similar to the last World Cup in 2014, when Japanese supporters stuck around after the national team’s matches to clean up their own garbage.

A Japan supporter collects garbage after the 2018 World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and Japan at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don, Russia, on Monday.
A Japan supporter collects garbage after the 2018 World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Belgium and Japan at the Rostov Arena in Rostov-On-Don, Russia, on Monday. | AFP-JIJI