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On the World Cup, Japan Takes Out the Trash, and Others Get the Hint


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AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The ultimate 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 frustration of their team’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica.

However the moment quickly passed, and out got here the blue trash bags.

Within the return of a postgame ritual that’s being met with widespread astonishment at this yr’s World Cup, a gaggle of Japanese spectators, who only moments earlier had been deliriously singing for his or her team, began meticulously cleansing 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 employees on their way out.

“It’s an indication of respect for a spot,” said Eiji Hattori, 32, a fan from Tokyo, who had a bag of bottles, ticket stubs and other stadium detritus. “This place shouldn’t be ours, so we should always clean up if we use it. And even when it shouldn’t be our garbage, it’s still dirty, so we should always clean it up.”

The image of spectators calmly assuming janitorial duties through the World Cup has charmed observers from other countries, like america, where slaloming around sticky soda spills, toppled bags of popcorn and mini mountains of peanut shells is usually accepted as a part of the conventional sports stadium experience.

But in Japan, tidiness, particularly in public spaces, is widely accepted as a virtue. Japanese people at the sport said such habits were taught at home and reinforced at schools, where students from a young age are expected to wash up their classrooms and faculty facilities regularly.

The cleansing of shared areas, like stadiums, becomes something of a person responsibility, and there are sometimes not armies of employees hired to do it.

A Temporary Guide to the 2022 World Cup

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What’s the World Cup? The quadrennial event pits the very best national soccer teams against one another for the title of world champion. Here’s a primer to the 2022 men’s tournament:

Where is it being held? This yr’s host is Qatar, which in 2010 beat america and Japan to win the suitable to carry the tournament. Whether that was an honest competition stays in dispute.

When is it? The tournament opened on Nov. 20, when Qatar played Ecuador. Over the 2 weeks that follow, 4 games will probably be played on most days. The tournament ends with the ultimate on Dec. 18.

Is a winter World Cup normal? No. The World Cup often takes place in July. But in 2015, FIFA concluded that the summer temperatures in Qatar may need unpleasant consequences and agreed to maneuver the tournament to the relatively bearable months of November and December.

What number of teams are competing? Thirty-two. Qatar qualified robotically because the host, and after years of matches, the opposite 31 teams earned the suitable to come back and play. Meet the teams here.

How does the tournament work? The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of 4. Within the opening stage, each team plays all the opposite teams in its group once. The highest two finishers in each group advance to the round of 16. After that, the World Cup is a straight knockout tournament.

How can I watch the World Cup within the U.S.? The tournament will probably be broadcast on Fox and FS1 in English, and on Telemundo in Spanish. You’ll be able to livestream it on Peacock, or on streaming services that carry Fox and FS1. Here’s methods to watch every match.

When will the games happen? Qatar is three hours ahead of London, eight hours ahead of Recent York and 11 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Meaning there will probably be predawn kickoffs on the East Coast of america for some games, and midafternoon starts for 10 p.m. games in Qatar.

Got more questions? We’ve got more answers here.

“For Japanese people, that is just a standard thing to do,” said Hajime Moriyasu, the coach of the Japanese team. “If you leave a spot, you have got to go away it cleaner than it was before.”

Videos and pictures of the Japanese cleansing sessions have gone viral on social media. Nevertheless it shouldn’t be just fans who’re sharing them: Last week, FIFA posted an image of the Japanese team’s locker room after its enormous upset victory over Germany. The room was — you guessed it — spotless.

Fans from other teams, inspired by the Japanese, have began cleansing up after games, too.

“We imagine we are able to make this contagious,” said Tomomi Kishikawa, 28, a fan from Tokyo currently working as a flight attendant based in Doha. “We don’t must push anyone to wash. But when we start, possibly we might be an excellent example of respect.”

For Japanese fans, the sudden global highlight and outpouring of appreciation has been met with a combination of pride, amusement and embarrassment.

Many have glowed within the positive depictions of the country’s culture. Some are confused about what the fuss is about. And others have felt pangs of discomfort, wondering if this was one more instance where a selected behavior was being held up as representative of your entire populace of Japan.

Several fans on the stadium on Sunday, for example, tried to make clear one thing which will have been muddled in all of the fawning viral posts and press coverage: While most Japanese individuals are conscientious about throwing out their very own trash, only a small group of fans at this World Cup has been walking around picking up other people’s garbage.

The Japanese Football Association on Sunday passed out a whole lot of blue plastic bags that had the phrase “Thank You” written in English, Japanese and Arabic, but only a couple of dozen fans — out of the hundreds present — joined the broader effort.

“We were actually invited to wash up, but we didn’t wish to,” said Nagisa Amano, 23, a fan from Yokohama. “We just desired to benefit from the stadium. We now have a right to try this, I feel.”

Amano said she had heard of instances in Japan by which stadium employees had been forced to reopen garbage bags packed by overzealous fans with the intention to separate materials for recycling. She wondered if Japanese fans in Qatar might inadvertently interfere with similar efforts.

She said the hoopla over the fans’ conspicuous cleanliness was probably good for Japan’s image abroad, but wondered if their motivations were entirely pure.

“I heard some individuals are joining that group to wash up simply to enjoy being within the highlight,” she said.

In a tweet shared widely after the Germany game, Yoichi Masuzoe, a former governor of Tokyo, suggested that Japanese travelers needed to be more aware of the local culture and customs and respect the indisputable fact that there have been already people hired to wash the stadiums.

“Japanese civilization shouldn’t be the one world,” Masuzoe wrote.

The cleansing, nonetheless, appears to be appreciated in Qatar. After Japan’s win over Germany, a stadium staff member led a personnel and volunteers over to the fans tidying up the stands and thanked them through a bullhorn.

On Sunday, Jaziba Zaghloul, 18, a volunteer from Beirut, Lebanon, was zipping across a seating row holding her own blue trash bag.

“It’s not my job, but I feel a responsibility,” said Zaghloul, who noticed that fans from Morocco and Saudi Arabia had followed the Japanese fans’ example and cleaned up after games. “There’s a way of community once you see people care. It’s a snowball effect.”

Hikari Hida contributed reporting.

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