by Ionuț Axinescu
28 years later, the couple’s two boys, Nicole and Iñaki Williamsplay at World Cup from Qatar. One for Spain, another for Ghana.
In the 69th minute of the match won enthusiastically by Spain against Costa Rica (7-0), coach Luis Enrique sent on the field Nicholas Williams. At just 20, the Pamplona-born kid made his World Cup debut, where he hopes to meet his brother. As an opponent and as late as possible in the competition, because Inakinow 28, will represent Ghana and make his debut at the final tournament against Ronaldo’s Portugal.
Iñaki Williams on his parents’ ordeal: “They walked for days through the desert”
The story of the brothers Williamswhich both evolve for Athletic Bilbao, is a successful one. But her beginnings were dramatic. The parents of the two had to face unimaginable obstacles to set foot in Spain, in search of a decent life.
“I knew dad had problems with his soles, but I didn’t know it was because he walked through the desert sand. They both left in a truck crammed with 40 people, then walked for days. Some people fell on the road, from the truck, and were buried there. Many immigrants are tricked by traffickers who leave them there, in the desert, in the middle of the road, without water and food”told Iñaki Williams, in an emotional interview for The Guardianin 2021.
María Arthuer didn’t know she was pregnant with Iñaki when she risked her life to go to Europe. Together with her husband, they arrived in Melilla, a Spanish city located in North Africa, on the border with Morocco. There, in the Iberian exclave, thousands of African immigrants try to climb the fence and enter EU territory every day.
“My folks climbed the fence and were detained by the police. They had no papers, so they were going to be sent back. When they were locked up, a lawyer, whom I now consider a good Samaritan, said to them: The only thing you can try is to tell them you come from a country at war. So my folks tore up their Ghanaian papers and said they were from Liberia. They asked for political asylum and that’s how they ended up in Bilbao. They lived what I don’t wish on anyone”Iñaki explained.
“I feel Basque. I was born and raised here!” How did he get there? Iñaki to represent Ghana
Shortly after arriving in Spain, the Williams family moved to Pamplona, a city about 150 kilometers from Bilbao. They all settled in a working-class and humble neighborhood, where they received help from a Catholic priest named Iñaki Mardones. Hence the name of the first child of the family.
The father, Felix, worked as a shepherd on a farm and did all other jobs “which others did not want to do”, said Iñaki Williams. After a few years of barely making ends meet, he moved to London, without his family, while my mother stayed in Spain, where she had two jobs. “Sometimes three, if there was work”says Iñaki, who has become a kind of father to his brother, Nico.
In 2014, the talented and tenacious Iñaki made his debut for Athletic Bilbao, a club where he is already a legendary name. He was the second black player in Bilbao’s history, scored over a hundred goals for the Basques and, among other things, holds the record of 240 consecutive games played for the club over six seasons. The fantastic streak was interrupted in August this year when he got injured.
Despite consistent performances in La Liga, Iñaki did not “stick” with the Spanish national team. He played just once for La Roja, in a friendly against Bosnia in 2016. Since then, no coach has called him up, but Iñaki has long been hesitant to play for his parents’ country.
“I was born and raised in Spain. I feel Basque, I don’t want to fool anyone. I don’t want to take the place of a player who deserves and feels for Ghana more than me”, he said. However, in the summer of this year, the Bilbao footballer accepted the proposal of the Accra Federation. He made his debut for Ghana in a match against Nicaragua and is now preparing to represent the African country at the World Cup.
Nico Williams: “My folks told me they came to Spain by plane”
Instead, Nicole, the younger brother, now represents the country where he was born. To progress to the World Cup means, for him, a dream come true. At the same time, to go to the national team of Spain without his brother is “like leaving home”said the kid, in an interview for Mundo Deportivo.
Like his brother, Nico perfectly understands what the thousands of African immigrants fleeing to Europe are going through, even though he has only been to Ghana twice. When he was little, his parents lied to him that they came to Spain by plane.
“I used to see on TV what was happening to immigrants and I asked them about us. They weren’t telling me the truth. When we grew up, they told us how it really was and how they suffered. I want to give them everything, so that now they can live well”says Nico Williams.
His footballing rise has been accelerated in the last year. He made his debut for Bilbao in April 2021. Then, in September, he was called up to the Spain U21 national team, for which he scored once in five matches. In September of this year, Luis Enrique summoned him to the first national team.
Before the World Cup, he scored for “La Roja” in the friendly against Jordan (3-1). At only 20 years old, in a team where young people are valued and given confidence, Nico Williams seems to have found its place. He has talent, desire and a head on his shoulders. The needs at home made him mature quickly, just like his brother.
“You learn to appreciate things differently. When you know what your own have been through, you see a meaning in life that you didn’t see before”, Nico explained. If everything goes as he dreams, he will compete with his brother in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.