Joy for the Williams family of Spain on November 23 at the World Cup. Then despair for the same Williams family, who are also of Ghana, on November 24.
Williams brothers Iñaki and Nico have managed to mark both sides of their family’s heritage in the most incredible way at this World Cup in Qatar by playing for two different countries. They were both born in Spain but their parents are from Ghana.
Nico was part of the Spain team that beat Costa Rica 7-0 on November 23 in the tournament’s most compelling performance so far. He came on as a second-half substitute to make his World Cup debut in Spain’s record win at the tournament. A day later, big brother Iñaki played his first World Cup game for Ghana, a 3-2 loss to Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
That meant a complicated 24 hours in the family home back in Spain with celebrations for 20-year-old Nico no doubt swiftly followed by commiserations for 28-year-old Iñaki. The same for the two brothers, who Ghana coach Otto Addo said both feel as Spanish as they do Ghanaian.
“I know that they both have a good strong relationship with their mother and their fatherland,” was how Addo put it. Because of his love for his parents’ country, Iñaki’s integration into the Ghana team has been very easy, Addo added, even if he was born in Bilbao and raised in the Basque region.
Iñaki, a forward just like Nico, played the whole game for Ghana against Portugal and stood in the centre circle at the end of the game looking bitterly disappointed with the loss. “Maybe for some it’s difficult to understand but I think it’s really possible to have two countries in your heart,” Addo said of Iñaki. “And surely he has Ghana in his heart from day one. But also Spain.”
The story behind the situation is inspiring, and it involves their parents’ decision to leave Ghana nearly 30 years ago to find a better life in Europe. Never could Felix and Maria Williams have thought they would end up with two sons playing at the World Cup when they trekked barefoot through parts of a desert and climbed a fence to get into Spain in the early 1990s. Maria was pregnant with Iñaki at the time.
They settled in Bilbao and both boys grew up to be soccer players. They still play club soccer together for hometown team Athletic Bilbao.
The brothers’ careers have always been connected, even after Iñaki decided this year to switch allegiance to Ghana and go back to his roots. Them playing for two different countries in the space of 24 hours was not the first time it has happened. Iñaki made his debut for Ghana on September 23 this year against Brazil, featuring first this time. Nico made his first appearance for Spain against Switzerland a day later.