Japan was bounced from the World Cup on Monday, its surprising run halted by a flurry of late Belgian goals. A team that was given little chance of advancing in the tournament reached the round of 16 and took a two-goal lead over powerful Belgium, and so the team’s sudden last-second loss left?players stunned, fans speechless, and some spectators sobbing.

It was a heartbreaking way to go out, but fans and players left a lasting impression of sportsmanship and courtesy in Russia, one that won’t be easily forgotten.

A photo that has gone viral shows that Japan’s program left behind a fastidious locker room, along with a note that said “thank you” in Russian and was signed “Japan.” And it led to a wave of positive headlines and reports.

Even the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt noticed, tweeting, “This is awesome.”

One reader explained?to Watt: “This is a part of our culture. Japanese school age children would have also done this. After a school day, they clean their classrooms. They even make their lunches in class and clean up after. Very different culture.” Another pointed out that UCLA’s legendary coach John Wooden expected the same of his players.

Japan’s players had also saluted their supporters after the crushing loss.

And fans of the team, just as they had after Japan beat Colombia and (just as Senegal’s fans did), pushed disappointment aside and cleaned up the arena before they left.


A Japan fan tidies up the stadium after the loss to Belgium. (Juan Barreto / AFP / Getty Images)

Another Japanese fan collects trash. (Pavel Golovkin/AP)

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