Despite their heartbreaking loss to Croatia, the Samurai-Blue and Japanese supporters have left a very strong and positive impression about Japan during the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar on and off the pitch through their actions, Japanese ambassador Satoshi Maeda has said.
The envoy told Gulf Times that since the start of the tournament, he read many articles mentioning the politeness and discipline of the Japanese people such as the team members cleaning their locker room after the matches while supporters cleaned the stadium before leaving.
“This small act of respect towards the place that we visit is actually instilled in every Japanese since early childhood. That's our long time tradition and there is no surprise when they do the same thing after football games.
“But I'm so happy to see that many people praised their activity and as we have seen later on, many other fans from different countries were inspired by the Japanese fans and started to do the same after each game. So I’m happy that this started a good tradition in football games,” Maeda said.
The envoy lauded the Japanese team’s performance, saying it was impressive and surprised their fans after winning the top spot in Group E, which was also known as “Group of Death”.
The Japanese team played with high spirits, shrewd tactics and staged a stunning win over Germany and Spain – both World Cup champions – and advanced to the round of 16, Maeda recalled.
“The defeat against Croatia was heartbreaking indeed but we found our solace in the fact that the team gave 110% of their effort and gave us one of their best performances ever, relentlessly fighting to the end but luck was not on our side this time.
“I’m very proud of them for their great performance in the four matches they have played and would like them to return home with pride and a smile on their faces. In fact, at this rate, I’m confident that Japan will advance much further in the upcoming World Cup to the semi-finals or perhaps even further,” he added.
Maeda lauded the organising of the World Cup in Qatar, saying “the tournament has definitely exceeded all my expectations."
“The world cup of firsts” as they say, it’s the first FIFA World Cup with teams from all continents in the round of 16, at the same time, Japan, Australia and Korea Republic have also made Asian football confederation record for reaching knockout stages, Japan winning over two World Cup Champions Germany and Spain...it has certainly been a wonderful journey so far,” he said.
The Japanese ambassador cited the state-of-the-art stadiums, excellent transport network, and various cultural experiences, which captured the attention and hearts of the fans who have come to support their teams.
He said throughout the tournament, everything proved to be functional and the compact nature of the tournament has turned it into an exceptional experience that is difficult to be repeated again, especially in light of FIFA’s decision to increase the number of participating teams in the upcoming tournaments.
“I sincerely believe that Qatar should be proud of this achievement as should be all the Arab countries. This is the true legacy that Qatar will leave on for the future generations,” Maeda said.
About plans by the Japanese government to host the FIFA World Cup in the future, he said it won’t be a surprise if Japan looks forward to hosting the event due to the rising popularity of football in Japan – boosted by the FIFA World Cup (hosted jointly with the Republic of Korea in 2002).
“Although, I honestly don’t have any information on the subject so far. On the other side, should Japan ever be awarded the right to host the FIFA World Cup, I’m certain that we have a lot to learn from Qatar in terms of the compact and sustainable nature of the World Cup Qatar 2022,” Maeda added.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2022