These Soccer Fans Really Clean up After Themselves

These fans are earning respect and admiration for their behavior.

(Maykova Galina /

There is a Japanese saying, the Singapore-based Pride reports - Tatsu tori ato wo nigosazu -  “a bird taking flight doesn’t muddy its tracks.” Japanese take this to mean, “leave a place in the same condition that it was when you entered.”

True to this saying, Japanese fans at the World Cup have earned praise and admiration for the state they left the stadium in after Japanese wins and losses. A shocking Japanese win against Spain, and a later heartbreaking loss against Croatia didn’t deter Japanese soccer fans from cleaning up after themselves and leaving the stadium spotless, CNN explains. It’s just part of the Japanese culture of cleanliness and respect.

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Japan’s FIFA World Cup performance
Japanese actions at the Qatar-based FIFA World Cup shocked fans both on and off the pitch. The Japanese soccer team, Samurai Blue, won historic victories against both Spain and Germany, putting the team at the top of its league for a short time.

Hajime Moriyasu, the Samurai Blue coach told CNN, “We beat Germany and Spain – both World Cup champions…We should be confident in our ability and, if we aim not just to catch up to but to surpass, I think there will be a different future ahead for Japanese soccer.”

Japanese fans were, understandably, ecstatic about the wins. But, fans still put their values of respect, personal responsibility, and gratitude ahead of their excitement. Despite the victories, before exiting the stadium after each game, Japanese fans took the time to clear the litter and leave the stadium spotless.

Photos shared widely on social media showed the exuberant fans, toting blue plastic garbage bags around the bleachers, earning the country respect both for its on-field and off-field wins. 

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Respect in victory and defeat
According to Euro News, the clean-up efforts are a national undertaking. Japan’s Football Association gave out 8,000 trash bags, with “thank you” written on the sides in Japanese, English, and Arabic, for fans to use to clean up after themselves.

Daily Mail reports that it isn’t just the thrill of victory that motivates Samurai Blue supporters. After the team lost to Costa Rica in a close match, the heartbroken fans nevertheless put aside their feelings, and tidied up the stadium. Their actions inspired the FIFA official Twitter account to tweet, “'In victory or defeat, there is always respect. Thank you for helping to #SaveThePlanet, Japan fans!”

Samurai Blue leaves notes of gratitude
On December 5th, Samurai Blue lost another close game to Croatia, and exited the tournament. The Sun reports that not only did fans still clean up the stadium despite the loss, but the team itself tidied up their dressing room.

Images shared on social media after both the Japanese win against Germany and the loss against Croatia, showed the team’s dressing room, with the floor swept and the towels folded.  The team left behind origami cranes and a thank you note in Japanese and Arabic, expressing gratitude to their Qatari hosts.

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Just a normal thing
Japanese scholars have remarked that this behavior, which continues to surprise and impress people worldwide, is just a normal part of Japanese culture. 

The AP quotes Moriyasu, who explains ,“For Japanese people, this is just the normal thing to do. When you leave, you have to leave a place cleaner than it was before. That’s the education we have been taught. That’s the basic culture we have. For us, it’s nothing special.”

Barbara Holthus, a sociologist who’s lived in Japan for ten years, concurs,“You’re always supposed to take your trash home in Japan, because there are no trash cans on the street,” she shares. “You clean your classroom. From a very young age you learn you are responsible for the cleanliness of your own space.”

The Daily Mail cites Japanese fans who explain that cleaning up is just atarimate or “stating the obvious”, something obvious to do. One fan shared,  “What we're taught is that leaving things cleaner than the way you found it is atarimae. And that we should always express gratitude.”

Maybe we aren’t ready to take on a project as big as cleaning up a stadium, but we certainly can learn from the Japanese fans and the Samurai Blue players to take the time to pick up after our messes and to express gratitude to those who help us – win or loss. 

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