Inaki and Nico Williams will be at the 2022 World Cup with different teams. Inaki will represent his parents’ country Ghana, while Nico is set to play for the Spanish team. The two strikers have pushed Athletic Bilbao to a fine beginning to the season and are expected to do same at the World cup which begins in a couple of days.
A year ago, the Williams family could not have possibly expected both of their children to be at the FIFA World Cup™.
Although a star player for Athletic Bilbao, and having recently broken a Spanish league record by playing 203 consecutive matches, Inaki had not featured in the Spain team since 2016. In the interim, his more youthful brother Nico, had quite recently started his professional career and bragged just a modest bunch appearances for a similar club.
Presently the two brothers are both set to make a beeline for Qatar this month for the world’s most noteworthy competition. Interestingly, for once in their lives, they won’t go together.
Inaki will be representing Ghana after eventually accepting their offer to switch nationalities from the Spain (his birth country) to that of his parents. He made his debut for the Black Stars in September in opposition to Nicaragua and also played against Brazil.
Nico is additionally planning to go to Qatar with Spain, having procured his most memorable call-up in September in the UEFA Nations League. He made his debut against Switzerland and in his subsequent appearance from the bench against Portugal, he seized the moment by setting up Alvaro Morata’s winning goal, sending Luis Enrique’s side to the Final Four.
The Williams brothers have been in a close journey together in football, both joining Athletic’s Academy before breaking into the first team. Yet, the story of their family is significantly more surprising and interesting.
In search of a better life before either of their sons were born, mother Maria and father Felix made the treacherous 4,000-kilometre journey from Ghana to the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
They did some of the journey in the back of a crowded truck, the rest of it by foot, crossing the sands of the Sahara desert in temperatures of 40 and 50 degrees Celsius. Felix still has trouble walking due to the damage he did to the soles of his feet.
Maria, meanwhile, was pregnant. They were arrested upon arriving in Melilla but were granted political asylum and travelled to Bilbao, where Inaki was born, named after a priest who had helped the family and who later became the boy’s Godfather.
“Hearing my parents’ story makes you want to fight even harder to give back everything they sacrificed for us,” Inaki said in an interview.
“I couldn’t ever repay them – they risked their lives – but the life I try to give them is the one they dreamed of giving us.”
The family finally settled in the nearby city of Pamplona and eight years later Nico was born. With Felix forced to spend much of his time working abroad, Inaki had to take over a lot of the parenting responsibilities like taking his younger brother to school or football practice and preparing his lunch. In many ways he acted as much of a father to Nico as a brother.
In 2013 Inaki signed for Athletic and Nico, then at age 11, followed him and joined the club’s youth set-up.
Inaki’s full debut came in 2014 and that season he helped Athletic reach at the Copa del Rey final. He has won the Spanish Supercopa two times, and, surprisingly, scored the winning goal in the final against Barcelona in 2021.
Soon thereafter the family’s fantasy was realized when Nico made his Athletic debut, coming from the bench against Real Valladolid. After ten minutes Inaki also came from the bench to go along with him on the pitch.
The following campaign Nico steadily consolidated his place in the first team and scored his first goals in the Copa del Rey and, like his brother the year before, in the Supercopa. When he scored the winning goal in the semi-final, mother Maria celebrated by jumping into a swimming pool fully clothed.
“I feel proud of both of them,” she said. “It’s so difficult to make it as a footballer. Out of 100 people only five make it. So imagine having two brothers together in the same team.”
This season the brothers have truly been inseparable, playing all 12 league matches for Athletic, with Nico on the right wing and Inaki as centre-forward.
They each scored in a memorable 3-2 win over Rayo Vallecano in September, which witnessed Nico’s first league goal and his first in front of the Athletic fans at San Mames. Inaki, naturally, was the first person to celebrate with him, running across the pitch to jump into his arms.
“We’re proud of being together,” Inaki said after the game. “Our mum will be pleased with her boys.”
Between them the pair have eight goals and four assists and have moved Athletic to their best start to a season in nine years.
Now, Inaki and Nico are heading to the World Cup, in the form of their lives. There is even the chance their paths could cross in Qatar in the quarter-finals.