In the international sporting arena, there are lessons to be learned by observing the behavior of fans. The United States doesn’t have a great track record with decent behavior before, during, and after sporting events. Just look at the mayhem after the Super Bowl or the recent viral video of parents getting into a brawl at a 12-U softball game.
For better or for worse, sporting events get fans riled up. Now that it’s the World Cup, the spotlight is on teams, nations, and fanbases from across the world. The month-long tournament is the biggest sporting event on earth and causes a flurry of emotions from people around the globe.
This past week, we saw some dramatic matches that ended with underdogs being victorious. First, Japan defeated Columbia, making them the first Asian team to ever beat a South American team in World Cup history. Later in the day, Senegal was victorious over Poland. Neither of these results was anticipated, but what came next was even more surprising and admirable.
The Japanese fans had brought garbage bags into the match with them, something they also did in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and stayed after the match to clean up litter in the stadium. Later in the day, Senegal did the same thing and stayed behind to clean up. Both actions went viral across social media, sparking the encouragement of people across the world to take note and follow suit.
It’s not hard to be a hooligan for your team, but the small time taken to act with courtesy and conscientiousness speaks volumes. In the same way Harley-Davidson is distinctly American (29% of all motorcycles sold in the U.S.), public cleanliness is apparently distinctly Japanese. Noting Japan’s actions, one expert wasn’t surprised at all: “Japanese are typically very responsible about keeping public spaces clean and about removing trash. But at yesterday’s game, I am sure there was an element of celebration meshed with a sense that as guests, Japanese fans wanted to be sure they honored their hosts as well,” said Sheila Smith, a Japan expert at the Council of Foreign Relations. While healthcare professionals like hospice workers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the cleaning crews for the World Cup in Russia are likely working harder than they’ve seen in a while. There’s no doubt that they were thankful for the helping hands of both teams in keeping the stadiums beautiful after their matches.
Norm or not, it’s a rarity to see such classy behavior at what are known as some of the wildest sporting events in the world. Especially when unexpected victory is to be celebrated. Japan and Senegal: stay wonderful and good luck in the rest of the tournament.