After taking a 2-0 lead against the world No 3 Belgium side, Japan were knocked out of the World Cup in Russia in the most heartbreaking fashion after conceding a goal on the counterattack with virtually the last kick of the game.
Imagine being a Japan fan in the stadium for that match. First you feel content at your team competing toe-to-toe against the favoured Belgian side in the first half. Then there is joy at your team opening the scoring. And soon there is unbridled ecstasy at taking a 2-0 lead with less than 40 minutes left to seal a quarter-final berth for the first time ever. But 40 minutes later, with the final move of the match, Belgium scored their third goal to complete a stunning turnaround.
Tears of joy turned into tears of despair, erasing the face paints that most fans wore. It was a gut-wrenching moment.
But some fans, overcoming that heartbreak, stayed back after the game to clean up the stands in a wonderfully selfless gesture.
The players took it up a notch by cleaning up their locker rooms (something they have done throughout the World Cup) and left a thank you note in Russian for the hospitality of their hosts.
To do this despite the heartbreaking nature of the defeat speaks volumes about Japan and it’s culture of cleanliness.
This is not the first time that the fans have earned praise for their gestures during the World Cup. They did the same after their match against Colombia earlier at Russia 2018, and the videos and images of their selfless gesture earned praise even then.
It is a common sight in stadiums across Japan to see fans clean up after a game. It is a practice seeped into tradition.
“It’s not just part of the football culture but part of Japanese culture,” Japan-based football journalist Scott McIntyre was then quoted as saying by BBC.
“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.”
Japan’s latest selfless act came in for plenty of praise.
Japan fans and players are truly a credit to their country.