Sunday 01 July 2018, 06:00

Fan-favourite Embolo humbled to have his own song

  • ​Embolo and Switzerland face Sweden in the Round of 16

  • "In the Nati, the Swiss Nati, Breel is at home…"

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By Alan Schweingruber with Switzerland

Who comes up with the chants fans sing in the stands? Are they created at annual supporters' club meetings? Or by a group of friends over drinks? Or is it up to the most musically gifted member of a fan community?

Three years ago, the so-called 'Embolo song' came forth, and it is safe to say that whoever invented it, had a good ear for a hit. The melody is borrowed from 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and the chant is now an established part of any Switzerland match. Whether en route to the stadium, in bars or on the terraces, Swiss fans can be heard singing: "In the Nati, the Swiss Nati, Breel is at home…"

"The national team and Switzerland mean everything to me," the 21-year-old said in an interview with "I came to the country from Cameroon when I was five and all my schooling and football education has been here. Switzerland welcomed 'Breel' when he was just 'Breel' and turned him into Breel Embolo."

Moving to Switzerland from Cameroon with his mother when he was a child, Embolo climbed the youth ranks at a number of different youth teams in Basel before joining city giants FC Basel in 2010 at the age of 13. He now laces his boots for German Bundesliga side Schalke, where he recovered from a long injury lay-off in time to find his form again ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™.

Switzerland fans have supported him for years, regardless of whether or not he plays or scores. And when Embolo flashes his smile after a game, any worries seem to just melt away for a moment. "It's wonderful to have such great fans that are always behind us and give us so much," he said. "That's something that characterises Switzerland, that positivity and togetherness. We have to keep going like that because it's the only way to achieve anything."

Alternative View Portraits - Breel Embolo

Will everything come together for Switzerland, as they look to reach the quarter-finals? They have not won a World Cup knockout stage match since 1938, whereas Sweden have progressed to the semi-finals three times over the same period. "Yes, Sweden are a strong team," continued Embolo, who is yet to score in 117 minutes at the tournament so far. "But we'll be very well prepared. We'll give it our all to get to the quarter-finals. Two years ago, we lost to Poland in the last 16 at the European Championship. We learned from that. The fact we've been able to come from behind twice here in Russia shows we're ready for more."

With six days between Switzerland's final group game against Costa Rica and their last 16 assignment, Embolo has made the most of the down time. Coach Vladimir Petkovic gave him permission to fly back to Switzerland straight from Nizhny Novgorod for the birth of his daughter, who was born late on Thursday.

"It was perfect timing," said Embolo after his return to the team's World Cup headquarters. "I went straight to the hospital from the airport and arrived just in time. I'm delighted. Naliya's birth is by far the best present I've ever had in my life. Now, I hope I won't be flying back to Switzerland any time soon. We still want to achieve something here in Russia."

Switzerland's next match is in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, while a potential quarter-final against England or Colombia would be held in Samara. Yet, irrespective of the venue, the 'Embolo song' sounds good in any city or stadium.

"In the Nati, the Swiss Nati, Breel is at home…"

Alternative View Portraits - Switzerland composition photo