FIFA awards Japanese soccer fans for collecting trash at stadiums

Keita Iijima/The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japanese supporters pick up litter after the Japan-Germany match in Doha on Wednesday.

DOHA — Japanese soccer fans have received an award from FIFA for picking up trash at stadiums, following the Samurai Blue’s stunning victory against Germany in their World Cup opener in Doha on Wednesday.

After the Qatar-Ecuador match that kicked off the tournament on Nov. 20, Japanese supporters filled about 20 45-liter bags with empty plastic bottles, boxes and other kinds of trash.

Volunteers at the Japan-Germany game praised the efforts of the conscientious Samurai Blue fans, who even received a thank-you message via the public address system.

A World Cup organizing committee official expressed appreciation for the actions of the Japanese supporters at an award ceremony in Doha on Thursday and said it would be great if such spirits were shared among the people of Qatar and other countries.

The official said Moroccan and Tunisian supporters have also been picking up litter at stadiums, apparently inspired by the efforts of Japanese fans.

A 22-year-old university student from Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, who collected trash at the tournament’s opening match and the Japan-Germany game, received flowers and commemorative gifts from FIFA.

“I feel strange receiving an award for doing nothing special,” said the student. “It’s part of Japanese culture, and I want to spread it around the world.”

A tweet on FIFA’s official Twitter account posted after Samurai Blue’s victory read, “It’s not only three points that Japan have in the bag.”

Another FIFA tweet circulating on social media had a photo of the Japan team’s changing room with the message: “After an historic victory against Germany at the #FIFAWorldCup on Match Day 4, Japan fans cleaned up their rubbish in the stadium, whilst the @jfa_samuraiblue left their changing room at Khalifa International Stadium like this. Spotless. Domo Arigato.”

According to the team, staff and reserve players tidied up the changing room after Wednesday’s match with dustpans and brooms they had brought with them from Japan.

Samurai Blue delegations have cleaned up changing rooms at past tournaments. This time, they also left origami cranes that match the motif on the team’s 2022 World Cup uniforms.

Sho Komine/The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japanese supporters receive flowers and commemorative gifts at the awards ceremony in Doha on Thursday.