The Williams brothers enjoy a farewell thrill at Athletic after international calls | La Liga

aOn Sunday evening, Inaki Williams boarded a plane north, bound for Paris. Around the time he set off from there to Le Havre on Monday, Nico Williams was heading the other way, south to Barajas and then to Las Rozas, 25km outside Madrid. on Saturday, A night no one will ever forget – a joyful and cheerful celebration of all that they are – they embraced it; Then, for the first time, the Bilbao brothers went their separate ways. “It was always our dream to play together and to see our mother happy,” says Inaki. This week they won’t, the start of a new chapter in their lives. But they’ll be back, and they’ve had a goodbye, boy.

As for their mother, Maria, she couldn’t be happier. The schedule means that hopefully, she will be able to see her two sons take their next giant strides for a start. On Friday, 28-year-old Inaki Williams will likely make his Ghana debut against Brazil in France. The next night, Nico Williams, eight years younger, is likely to play Spain against Switzerland in Zaragoza. They arrived after celebrating those call-ups with a 3-2 win over Rayo Vallecano to take Athletic to a place in the Champions League. It was Inaki’s 239th straight match – yeah, Two hundred and thirty-nine And theAnd the yes, Straight – For athletics. Nico was number 48 in total. It was also the first game they both scored, and San Mamés was roaring around them.

The first time Inaki played for Athletic, in 2014, he didn’t know exactly how he got there. He was 20 when his mother sat him down and told him how she was pregnant with him when she and her husband Felix left Ghana and crossed the desert by truck barefoot – Felix still had trouble walking – and Climb the fence to Melilla, Spanish North Africa. A few months later, Inaki was born in Bilbao. Fate, he calls it. “My friends and I talk about it: bloody hell, unbelievable. Everything happens because of. If I hadn’t been born in Bilbao, I would never have played for Athletic.”

Inaki joined the club at the age of 14, propelled by a goal. In 2005 or 2006, with the family living in social housing in Pamplona and the financial crisis brewing, Felix left for London, desperately searching for work, doing everything and anything he could find. “I knew that if I succeeded in it, I would solve many things and that the idea of ​​bringing the family together again was the most important thing,” Inaki recalls. “I dreamed of becoming a footballer but I also dreamed of uniting my family.” He did it at San Mamés: Inaki made 346 first-team appearances, deep into that streak when he was joined by Nico, who came to the club at the age of 11.

Now for the first time they will be playing for different teams. If the results go right, they could face each other in the World Cup.

Niko has always been a little special, almost as fast as Inaki but smaller, more skilled and more creative. “More talented,” Inaki admitted, even if he doesn’t have the same motivation, the same sense of destiny. He also had another advantage: he had a brother. Nico has only one tattoo, of a lion with his cub representing him and a brother who says he is like a father. When Felix left for London – “we saw him once a year for about 10 years” – Nico was two or three years old. Inaki would prepare his lunch, pick him up from school, take him to football, even referee matches – the 10 euro fee came in handy. In short, raise it. He can be strict, strict at times, directing. Above all, there was love.

There was a glimpse of it in the Super Cup when Nico won the runner-up medal. Inaki warns him and asks him to turn him back on again, to appreciate what he has achieved. He also gently placed his hand on Nico’s neck as he watched Real Madrid collect the trophy. After the semi-finals when Nico scored his first goal, he tweeted: “If I loved you more, I would die. More messages came in, like a proud father following his son’s career. When Niko learned of his call-up to Spain this week, Inaki saw a dream come true for both of them.

The Williams brothers, Inaki and Nico, celebrate a goal against Rayo Vallecano. Photo: DAX Images / NurPhoto / Shutterstock

Inaki played for the Spain under-21 national team and was called up to the first team once, in a friendly match against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016, but he never came back. Ghana approached him, but rejected the opportunity, thinking that it was not his place: he speaks Tui but was born in Bilbao, feels Basque, and does not think it is right to take the hope of another player from them. The Federation was adamant – they approached Niko too – and Inaki changed his mind. Age played a role (at 28 this would likely be his last chance to go to the World Cup) and in the summer he visited Ghana for the first time in many years, seeing grandparents, family and the places that shaped his life. Long discussions took place, and something turned inside of him.

He talked about the legacy, the journey, and the lessons from his parents. “It is time to learn about my roots, and all that Ghana and Africa mean to me and my family, because Ghana played a part in me. To be who I am as a son and a brother,” He said.

Even when they have gone their separate ways, brought together, the big connections come unexpectedly at the same time, likely making their debut in a day. If they don’t play in Le Havre and Zaragoza respectively, they could start their international career on the same night: next Tuesday Spain play Portugal in Braga and Ghana take on Nicaragua in Lorca. If Inaki knew this was coming, Niko wouldn’t. He is only 20 years old, and still lives at home with his mother – the manager, as Inaki calls her – this call was not yet expected, although he was flying this season, and flashes of something special, not least in his infamous goal against Elche. Consistency too, play every game, starting with five out of six.

Nico Williams makes it 3-1 with his first goal at San Mames! 🙌

Athletic Club have looked irresistible since falling behind early on 🦁

— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) September 17, 2022


Nico Williams makes the score 3-1 with his first goal in San Mamés! 🙌

Athletic Club seems irresistible since being late early

– Premier Sports (PremierSportsTV) September 17, 2022

I’m not doing this to stop him from going with Ghana. “He is a young and interesting player,” Spain coach Luis Enrique said. “He’s playing more for Athletic now. He’s progressing really well. I love him so much. We’ve had him in the youth team and we’ve been following him for a long time. I think the family would be happy: imagine the party if they both go to the World Cup. And they made it to the final, well, That would be the ultimate work.”

As for the party, how about this? Nico’s call came on Friday. The next night, there was a celebration in San Mamés, the best game of the season so far. Athletic vs. Rayo, two groups of fans who sing together. Two managers who have shared a lot, Ernesto Valverde and Andoni Iraola, are facing each other for the first time. And the two teams that actually work: Iraola likened his style to a kind of “organized chaos,” which As you go organization is the best kind. The result was a wild and fun ride. One commentator called it a “football poem”.

“Festival with San Mamés as a disco, 44,000 sings… an explosive cocktail of soccer,” AS puts it. “The perfect night,” Ander Herrera called it, and it ended with a pounding of thunder that reverberated. “One of those nights that makes you love soccer: pure rock ‘n’ roll,” Athletic reports. “You won’t be enjoying a night like this fully for quite some time,” El Correo claimed.

In short, if you watch it: you are in luck. If you don’t: do. Even responding to it would reward, that kind of stinging, intense, unstoppable occasion that not even VAR could destroy – and God I tried. He had 25 shots, five goals, including an infamous out-of-shoe shot by Radamel Falcao, four disallowed, and two postings.

Osasuna 0-2 Getafe, Villarreal 1-1 Sevilla, Real Betis 2-1 Girona, Real Sociedad 2-1 Espanyol, Atlético Madrid 1-2 Real Madrid, Real Mallorca 1-0 Almería, Barcelona 3-0 Elche, Valencia 3-0 Celta Vigo, Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Rayo Vallecano, Real Valladolid 0-1 Cadíz


Quick guide

Spanish league results


Osasuna 0-2 Getafe, Villarreal 1-1 Seville, Real Betis 2-1 Girona, Real Sociedad 2-1 Espanyol, Atletico Madrid 1-2 Real Madrid, Real Mallorca 1-0 Almeria, Barcelona 3-0 Elche, Valencia 3- 0 Celta Vigo, Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Rayo Vallecano, Real Valladolid 0-1 Cadiz

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Above all, he had two brothers. We’re enjoying it, they’re enjoying us,” Valverde said. Conditions were perfect and the Williams tore it apart, unleashing a tornado. 0-1 early on, Inaki scored a superb equalizer, touching him to tame Dani Garcia’s pass and escaping from a flawless defense. Oyhan Sunset made it 2-1 with a superb goal. Then came Nico’s strike, with his brother running across and jumping into his arms, before Falcao’s ridiculous second-half goal made it 3-2. Inaki posted a picture of that celebration, declaring, “Follow …“But for now they have to go their own way and things couldn’t be better, my courtside interview began with Inaki: ‘Congratulations… for everything. “

“We’re on a wave,” Williams Senior said. “Saturday night, 9 p.m., two goals, a win. This is San Mamés and we are so grateful. We are proud to be together, and able to offer sports nights like this. Our mother will be happy with her children.”