On June 19, 2018, Japan defeated Colombia to become the first Asian country to defeat a South American team in the World Cup. That same day, Senegal won against Poland after a bizarre goal.
Both matches were cause for celebration for each country’s fans, but after each game a number of the fans hung around the stadium—and it wasn’t because they were waiting to congratulate their country’s athletes.
The actions of some fans in attendance at this year’s World Cup has caught people’s attention.
Lo hemos visto también en Brasil. Hoy debutó Japón en Rusia y su público nos volvió a dar una lección de civismo. Para aplaudir e imitar. pic.twitter.com/tejpOH204m
— ANDRES CANTOR (@AndresCantorGOL) June 19, 2018
At the end of the game, while thousands of spectators poured out of the stadium, some Japanese and Senegalese fans stayed behind.
Why? Their fellow fans left behind piles of garbage, and someone needed to clean it up.
A minute-long clip showing a handful of Senegalese fans cleaning their section after the match has received over 7 million views since it was uploaded to social media on June 19.
A number of people stayed behind to pick up trash.
#TyCSportsMundial Senegal consiguió un triunfo histórico. Pero sus hinchas en lugar de festejar a minutos de terminado el partido, se encargan de limpiar su sector antes de retirarse. #RESPECT. pic.twitter.com/RiKovpfmoT
— TyC Sports (@TyCSports) June 19, 2018
Japanese fans also received attention for doing the same after their country’s game.
Japan made history as 1st Asian team to defeat a S. American team in #WorldCup. But what happened after is just as impressive. A friend sent me this video of Japanese fans cleaning the stadium after the game. They actually brought the blue trash bags with them. Class act. #COLJAP pic.twitter.com/uPL7XyxD8g
— J.R. (@JRHDZV) June 19, 2018
In 2014, Japan’s Samurai Blue supporters were shown filling large trash bags after their team’s matches at the World Cup in Brazil. Four years later and the trash bags have returned.
While many people online have praised their actions, Scott McIntyre, a Japan-based soccer journalist, told the BBC it’s a part of who they are.
“It’s not just part of the football culture, but part of Japanese culture,” McIntyre, who is currently following the team in Russia, said. “You often hear people say that football is a reflection of culture. An important aspect of Japanese society is making sure that everything is absolutely clean, and that’s the case in all sporting events and certainly also in football.”
Videos of both countries cleaning have left many inspired.
— Aulty (@aulty) June 19, 2018
Simply fantastic and outstanding from the Senegal fans.After team beat Poland the fans took it upon themselves to clean the terraces where they were seated and went away leaving the place sparkling clean.Enough Respect such things rarely happen in Africa.#WCsoka25 pic.twitter.com/WqWw7aLB6K
— Collins Okinyo (@bedjosessien) June 20, 2018
Even fans from other countries have decided to pitch in.
Uruguayos limpiando en la tribuna del estadio de Rostov. pic.twitter.com/yN4YWpZv55
— Eduardo Preve (@epreve) June 20, 2018
— ちょんまげ隊長ツンさん@トモロシ (@tsunsan) June 19, 2018
Scott North, professor of sociology at Osaka University in Japan, is not surprised that fans, specifically those from Japan, have been caught cleaning up after a match. The idea of cleaning up after oneself is taught in school, and as children grow, that behavior becomes second nature.
As the world watches, North can’t help but wonder, “What better place to make a statement about the need to care responsibly for the planet than the World Cup?”