Team Japan may have been beaten in their first match in this year’s FIFA World Cup, but their fans have won praise for setting the standard for model football fans.
Even after watching Côte d’Ivoire coming back from one goal down to beat Japan in a heartbreaking 1-2 defeat in their home country’s debut on Sunday, Japanese fans stayed behind after the match to clean up litter as the rest of the audiences filed out of the stadium.
Photos by spectators posted online showed Japanese fans helping to pick up rubbish from the stands, wearing raincoats to combat the drizzly weather.
Although cleaning up after themselves after sport events is common in Japan, their act impressed many online users who are accustomed to scenes of football fans across the world who are notorious for their usually unruly behaviour.
“We need to create some sort of trophy just for Japan’s fans,” wrote a Twitter user under the handle Elizabeth C. Another user called Kari Van Horn said they were an example of “fascinating sportsmanship”.
The acts were equally praised by the Chinese internet community despite strained relations between the two countries due to escalating territorial disputes.
“This has reflected Japan’s overall civil quality and underscored their successful education, something that is very well worth us learning,” said a commentator named HouZhiMa. This sentiment was echoed by many other bloggers.
In a move that distinguished them from other teams and impressed audiences, at the end of the match the defeated Japanese players formed up in a line and bowed towards the crowds, in a gesture apparently showing appreciation for their support.
Japan now stands in third place in Group C after the first round of group-stage matches. It trails behind Colombia and Côte d’Ivoire, who has scored victories.