Whether you’re rooting for France or Croatia in the World Cup final, this year’s tournament has given us many heartwarming moments to celebrate, and inspired many more across the world.
While fans may come from different cultures and creeds, it’s apparent that they all speak a common language – football. And, no matter which side they’re on, their shared values of humanity and compassion have shone through.
We’ve celebrated the goals. Now, let’s celebrate the moments of kindness that this competition has brought us.
Japanese fans set world standard for gracious behaviour
One of the finest displays at the World Cup has come from the Japanese, whose players and fans have shown tremendous class both on and off the pitch.
After Japan’s historic victory over Colombia – the first time an Asian team has defeated a South American team in the World Cup – Japanese fans took to the stadium stands to clear the area of wrappers, cans and other litter with plastic bags they brought specifically for that purpose.
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The same level of graciousness and respect was also shown by the Japanese national team, the Samurai Blue. Despite a heartbreaking exit after their loss to Belgium in the round of 16, they lined up and bowed to their opponents as a sign of respect and sportsmanship.
The team continued to display a level of class off the pitch as well, leaving the locker room spotless and honouring their host with a hand-written thank you note in Russian.
And Japanese fans who stayed in Russia for the remaining games continued to clear the stadium, as was witnessed after Belgium beat Brazil to enter the semi-finals.
Football is a competition, yes, but the beautiful game is also one that unites and brings people together.
Egyptian fan Hassan Sedky experienced that firsthand at the Fifa Fan Festival held in Moscow on the first day of the tournament.
Sedky’s friend Mostafa Amin told CNN that at the event, fans from different countries rallied together to celebrate football and “everybody was cheering for everybody”.
Sedky, who has been wheelchair-bound since an accident when he was 18, was positively ecstatic to be in Russia for the World Cup.
And when it was time to cheer for Egypt, Sedky’s infectious energy caught the attention of fans from Mexico and Brazil who rallied around and lifted him, wheelchair and all, on their shoulders to make sure he had the opportunity to cheer on his home team.
“We all decided to get him up in celebration of his attitude to life. And to show this example to the rest of the people around us,” Amin said to CNN.
A special bond between Mexicans and South Koreans
Mexico fans going wild with Koreans right now😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/tPmdBVPlEV
— L-Dub Jay🦁 (@jaymunoz_) 27 June 2018
South Korea’s shocking 2-0 victory over Germany knocked the defending champions out of the group stage, but it also meant that Mexico progressed to the next round.
Despite the result bearing little consequence for the South Koreans who had already been knocked out before the match, the players still gave it their all to obtain a famous victory.
The result sent the Mexican fans into a frenzy, with many taking to the streets of Russia to celebrate. Time Magazine shared social media videos captured by passersby of Mexicans fans, several going to the extent of lifting the Koreans up on their shoulders as a display of their new-found camaraderie.
In Mexico, a crowd of local football fans even celebrated in front of the South Korean embassy, where chants proclaiming Koreans as brothers of Mexicans filled the air. The South Korean consul to Mexico, Byoung-Jin Ha, also joined in the festivities and was even hoisted on the shoulders of Mexican fans.
By the looks of it, the Mexican-Korean bond formed seems likely to live on long after the final whistle of the tournament is blown.
Blind and deaf, but he doesn’t miss out on the action
Carlinhos ‘Carlos’ Santana Jr is deaf and blind, but like many football-crazy fans of his country, the Brazilian managed to experience all the action in his team’s 2-0 win over Mexico in their Round of 16 clash.
Born deaf and with a rare genetic disorder known as Usher syndrome, Carlos, 27, started losing his vision at a young age, impeding his ability to play football.
But with the help of his friends and a sign language interpreter, he was able to enjoy the Brazilian goals as well as every dive from Neymar – from a cultural centre in Sao Paulo.
Using a tabletop model of a football field, the interpreter uses haptic, or touch communication to communicate every detail of the game to Carlos, even using Carlos’ hands to touch his face to convey the emotions of the players.
In a heart-warming video shared on social media, Carlos is seen being fed details of the passes and shots leading up a goal, upon which he celebrates the moment with friends.
One of Carlos’ interpreters, Helio Fonseca de Araujo, told the Washington Post: “If society continues to help them, they (the deaf and blind) can live normal lives.”
There’s no need for a special occasion to be gracious and kind, but the World Cup is definitely a platform for such acts to inspire us to be greater.