World Cup 2022: Japanese soccer fans go viral for cleaning up after matches

Japanese soccer fans have made an impact at the World Cup in Qatar – but it’s not for the raucous support of their squad as they try to make it out of the group stage.

The fans have gone viral for cleaning up the trash in their sections when the match ends. While it seems unusual for the rest of the world, Japanese fans or players routinely do this at home. For the fans, it’s cleaning their surroundings and for the players it’s neatly tidying the locker room.

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Japan supporters clean the stands at the end of the World Cup group E soccer match between Germany and Japan, at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

“For Japanese people, this is just the normal thing to do,” Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu said. “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.”

A Japanese Football Association spokeswoman said it was supplying 8,000 trash bags to help fans pick up after matches with “thank you” messages written on the outside in Arabic, Japanese and English.

Fans cleaning the stadium after Japan’s upset win over Germany went viral on social media.

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Japan supporters have gone viral for cleaning up the trash after their team's match in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. Japan won 2-1.

Japan supporters have gone viral for cleaning up the trash after their team’s match in Doha, Qatar, Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. Japan won 2-1.
(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Barbara Holthus, the deputy director of the German Institute for Japanese Studies, told The Associated Press that cleaning up after oneself is engrained in Japanese culture.

“You’re always supposed to take your trash home in Japan, because there are no trash cans on the street,” Holthus said. “You clean your classroom. From a very young age you learn you are responsible for the cleanliness of your own space.

“It’s partly cultural, but also the education structures have been training you for a long time to do that.”

Japan is making its seventh straight World Cup appearance and the cleanliness portion of their visit attracted headlines beginning in 1998. Midori Mayama, a Japanese reporter in Qatar for the World Cup, told the AP that fans collecting trash was a non-story back home.

Japan's Junya Ito duels for the ball with Costa Rica's Francisco Calvo during the World Cup, group E match in Al Rayyan , Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.

Japan’s Junya Ito duels for the ball with Costa Rica’s Francisco Calvo during the World Cup, group E match in Al Rayyan , Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.
(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

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“Nobody in Japan would report on this,” she said. “All of this is so normal.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.