Cheer, Chant, Clean: Japan Takes Out the Trash, and Others Get the Hint

Japanese fans went viral for cleaning up after a World Cup victory. Fans from other countries are following their example.

Japanese fans have won acclaim for picking up litter from the stands after matches. But the practice is not new or, for them, unusual.
Japanese fans have won acclaim for picking up litter from the stands after matches. But the practice is not new or, for them, unusual.Credit…Tasneem Alsultan for The New York Times

By Andrew Keh
Nov. 27, 2022Updated 10:35 a.m. ET
AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon, and the Japanese fans who had just spent hours bouncing under a blistering midday sun allowed themselves a moment to wallow in the disappointment of their team’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica.
But the moment quickly passed, and out came the blue trash bags.
In the return of a postgame ritual that is being met with widespread astonishment at this year’s World Cup, a group of Japanese spectators, who only moments earlier had been deliriously singing for their team, began meticulously cleaning the stands at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, picking up trash scattered across the rows of seats around them.
It hardly mattered what it was — half-empty bottles of soda, orange peels, dirty napkins — or who had left it behind. The fans went across the aisles shuffling the litter into bags before handing them to smiling — and clearly delighted — stadium workers on their way out.
“It’s a sign of respect for a place,” said Eiji Hattori, 32, a fan from Tokyo, who had a bag of bottles, ticket stubs and other stadium detritus. “This place is not ours, so we should clean up if we use it. And even if it is not our garbage, it’s still dirty, so we should clean it up.”

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