Japanese fans traveled across the globe to see their team compete in the 2014 World Cup, but even though the team lost in their opener against Ivory Coast the faithful made sure to leave a good impression.
Several hundred fans stayed after the team's 2-1 loss to Ivory Coast, grabbing giant plastic bags and picking up trash that was left over in the stadium. The great gesture of sportsmanship was captured by some photographers inside the stadium, and on Sunday the pictures quickly went viral. A post on the link and image-sharing site Reddit garnered thousands of user votes.
The Japanese fans have gained a tradition of being gracious guests in the World Cup host countries. Fans also stayed behind after games in France in 1998 and Germany in 2006 to clean up refuse in the stadiums.
Others noted that the Japanese have a cultural aversion to littering. In Japanese culture, people are expected to pick up after themselves and littering is not only a social faux pas, but actually illegal in many areas of the country.
The act of sportsmanship was even greater considering the heartache the Japanese team faced in the game. The team gave up goals on headers by Wilfreid Bony and Gervinho just 98 seconds apart, allowing Ivory Coast to get off to a winning start in the 2014 World Cup.
The loss was especially frustrating given Japan's fast start, ESPN noted:
"Japan's star player Keisuke Honda had put them ahead with an impressive strike after 16 minutes and, as Ivory Coast continued to miss chance after chance, it seemed their bid to qualify for the knockout stage for the first time would take an early hit as Colombia had beaten Greece in Group C earlier in the day."
Aside from their clean ways, the World Cup fans from Japan also gained other headlines. A group of brightly costumed fans showed up wearing samurai top knit wigs and the blue jerseys that their World Cup team wears on the field. Others wore headbands painted with the Japanese flag and VICTORY in Japanese characters.