Samurai Blue winning over new fans in Doha

Sho Komine / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Raymond Jaboh, right, and Faizal Aziz display the Japan national soccer team uniform on their phones in Doha on Friday.

DOHA — The Japan national soccer team is winning over a growing number of new fans at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Samurai Blue uniforms and hachimaki headbands are becoming increasingly conspicuous in the capital city of Doha and at match-day stadiums, and some Japan team merchandise has even sold out.

“I bought both the home and away team uniforms, and I wear them every day,” said Raymond Jaboh, a Doha-based Malaysian national on Friday, following Japan’s shock victory over former World Cup champion Spain. “I was impressed by the way the team never gave up, even after conceding the first goal. I want to learn how to do that kind of thing at work.”

Jaboh said he had also sent a uniform to his son in Malaysia. Jaboh’s friend Faizal Aziz praised the Japan team, too, saying: “Their teamwork is fantastic. They’re the pride of Asia.”

Haider Koussan, who traveled from Lebanon to watch the tournament, wore a Japanese uniform Saturday to watch the first game of the knockout stage featuring the Netherlands and the United States. He was so impressed with the Japanese players that he bought a team uniform after the Spain match. Koussan said he plans to wear the outfits each day until he returns home in about a week.

As of Friday, the largest official FIFA store in the city center had sold out of Japan national team scarves, while T-shirts bearing the Japanese flag were only available in large sizes, including 3XL. The t-shirts reportedly became a hot item following the Samurai Blue’s historic victory over Germany.

Foreign fans wearing hachimaki bearing the kanji for “Japan” or “victory is assured” are burgeoning in number. A Qatari father and his son expressed fondness for Japan, saying: “We really like Japanese culture. Kanji characters are cool.”

A Japanese national who brought 200 hachimaki to Qatar said, “I want to increase the number of people supporting Japan by handing out hachimaki to neutral spectators [at Samurai Blue games].