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Sibling Teammates, Now World Cup Rivals


FILE - Ghana's Inaki Williams, right, attempts a shot at goal in front of Brazil's Gleison Bremer during the international friendly soccer match between Brazil and Ghana in Le Havre, western France, Friday, Sept. 23, 2022.

Athletic Bilbao forwards Iñaki and Nico Williams are set to become the latest brothers to play for different countries in a World Cup. Iñaki will play for Ghana and his younger brother Nico for Spain.

The Williams brothers were born in Spain to Ghanaian parents who made a long, treacherous journey to Europe looking for a better life.

"I always say that everything we do is for our parents, for everything that they did for us," Iñaki Williams told the Spanish daily Marca."It's like being able to somehow give it back to them for their sacrifice, to let them see their kids fulfill their dreams."

The couple moved to the Basque Country region where both boys were born.

It didn't take long before Iñaki Williams, now 28, joined the youth academy of first-division club Athletic. Nico, now 20, eventually did the same.

The brothers are among the few Black players to ever play for Athletic, the traditional Spanish club that signs local-born players or those who have come through the soccer academies of teams in the Basque region.

Iñaki Williams last season broke the Spanish league record for most consecutive appearances with 203. He hadn't been called up for Spain since making an appearance in a friendly in 2016, so he decided to accept the call from Ghana as the African nation aggressively recruited players in the run-up to the World Cup in Qatar.

FILE - Spain's Nico Williams, centre, in action during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Spain and Switzerland, at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, in Seville, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
FILE - Spain's Nico Williams, centre, in action during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Spain and Switzerland, at the Benito Villamarin Stadium, in Seville, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.

The speedy forward made his debut with Ghana in September against Nicaragua, and later played in a friendly against Brazil.

Nico Williams, who was raised in part by Iñaki because their parents often had to be out working, was a surprise late addition by Spain coach Luis Enrique, with his first call-up coming in September. He made his debut in a Nations League match against Switzerland, and in his second appearance coming off the bench, the youngster set up a goal by teammate Álvaro Morata to send Spain into the last four.

The Williams will be repeating the feat of the Boateng brothers, who played for different nations in 2010 in South Africa and in 2014 in Brazil. Jerome Boateng was a central defender with Germany, while the older Kevin-Prince Boateng was an attacking midfielder with Ghana.

Spain and Ghana are in different groups in Qatar, so the Williams brothers won’t play against each other at least until the quarterfinals.

“Hopefully it will happen,” Iñaki Williams said, “and that Ghana wins...”

“We’ll see about that," Nico Williams said. "But for sure we will be exchanging shirts after the match.”

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