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“We can’t leave a place without making it clean”: Japan becomes viral at Qatar 2022

They are winning both on and off the pitch, with an excellent team that has captured the minds and respect of neutral fans. Japan has undoubtedly been one of the feel-good stories at Qatar 2022, with their win against Germany, 2-1, delivering a huge surprise, especially after the Asian team mounted an otherworldly comeback, after being thoroughly dominated for an hour.

With a great performance on the pitch, where their work ethic has won the plaudits of many specialists, Japan has also stayed true to their roots, both as a team and with their excellent fans, who are respecting the customs and traditions of their country.

They have delivered viral moments time and time again at the FIFA World Cup and Qatar 2022 has not broken ranks, with the Japanese fans staying long after the final whistle was blown to ensure that the stadium remains spotless in their wake, after celebrating one of the biggest wins in history.

In what is becoming an increasingly common sight, Japanese fans stayed behind after their team’s win over Germany on Wednesday and helped to clean up the Khalifa International Stadium, one of the state-of-the-art arenas which hosts the 64 games at Qatar 2022, the only one that was renovated and not built from the ground up.

After several Japanese fans attended the opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, between Ecuador and Qatar, they have been staying long after the final whistle to leave the stadium spotless in the areas where they have been sitting and watching the match.

“What you think is special is actually nothing unusual for us. When we use the toilet, we clean it ourselves. When we leave a room, we make sure it’s tidy. That’s the custom. We can’t leave a place without making it clean. It’s a part of our education, everyday learning,” said a Japanese fan that attended his team’s win against Germany, according to Al Jazeera.

But what really makes Japanese fans really put all this work and clean behind them?

The habit is not only a football-related one and the Japanese fans do not do it for clicks or to earn praise, becoming viral on social media. It is something enshrined into their DNA, something that they learn as they grow up. It is nothing more than a habit, respected by young and elder alike.

“Cleaning up after football matches is an extension of basic behaviours that are taught in school, where the children clean their school classrooms and hallways. With constant reminders throughout childhood, these behaviours become habits for much of the population,” explains Scott North, professor of sociology at Osaka University, according to the BBC.

“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. What better place to make a statement about the need to care responsibly for the planet than the World Cup?”

It was not only the fans that really rose to the occasion at Qatar 2022, but also the Japan team, who could have left their locker room full of bottles, tapes, and other football-related things after their win against Germany.

Instead, in a heart-warming gesture, the Japanese players and the members of their support staff left the Khalifa Stadium spotless, everything in order, with few things to be cleaned up after leaving to the hotel, hours after one of their biggest wins in history.

With every coat hanger in its place, with the bibs folded to perfection, some leftover food on the table and 12 origami cranes, a symbol of respect left behind on the table, everything looked surreal.

“Domo Arigato (Thank You So Much),” FIFA said while sharing the photo of the Japan locker room from the Khalifa Stadium after the match. The picture immediately went viral, with a torrent of respectful comments directed to the Japan delegation.

FIFA also thanked the fans for saving the planet.

“My understanding is, we are taught, from primary school, to keep what we use clean, for example, the classroom. There is a Japanese saying “Tatsu tori ato wo nigosazu,” literally: the bird taking flight doesn’t muddy its track. This means when you leave a place, don’t leave it a mess, but leave it at least as clean as the condition you found it in. While, of course, not everyone follows that even in Japan, ideas like this are embedded into our thinking and practice, to show respect and value what we use,” concluded Dr Masafumi Monden, a lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Sydney, for Australian TV station SBS.

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