Williams Brothers : Athletic Bilbao duo Inaki Williams and Nico Williams will be representing Ghana and Spain respectively at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
This perhaps will be the proudest moment for their parents having crossed the Sahara dessert in their bid to seek greener pastures abroad more than twenty years ago.
“We were at home one day in Bilbao watching the television when something came on – I can’t remember exactly what – and I asked her again.
My mum turned it off and said: ‘OK. The moment’s come for me to tell you. Sit down, I think you’re ready to hear the story of papa and me now. When she told me I was left cold. Hearing that leaves a deep impression. Wow. It’s like something in a film and my parents lived it.” Inaki recounted in an interview with Sid Lowe for the Guardian in 2021.
The Williams Brothers :
She told him how they had left Ghana and crossed the Sahara without food or water, about those who didn’t make it and how that could have been them. How they hid things the only place they could. How, pregnant with him, she climbed the fence into Melilla, Spain’s north African enclave. And how she and Felix were arrested, a lawyer whose name he still doesn’t know and, to his regret, never will providing a lifeline, a way of reaching the city where he was born. His place, where he has made history.
“You’d watch the news and see boats arriving from Africa, people climbing the fence [into Melilla] and I realised I didn’t really know how we got to Spain. It’s something I always asked but my mum avoided it because I was just a kid. And maybe she then thought if she’d told me when I started at Athletic at 18 it would have been a weight on my back. I knew my life was different to my friends’ and I could imagine, but when you hear the details
…“Details like: I didn’t know they had crossed the desert by foot. I knew my dad had problems with the soles of his feet but not that it was because he had walked barefooted across the Sahara sand at 40, 50 degrees.
“They did part in a truck, one of those with the open back, 40 people packed in, then walked days,” Williams continues. “People fell, left along the way, people they buried. It’s dangerous: there are thieves waiting, rapes, suffering. Some are tricked into it. Traffickers get paid and then halfway say: ‘The journey ends here.’ Chuck you out, leave you with nothing: no water, no food. Kids, old people, women. People go not knowing what’s ahead, if they’ll make it. My mum said: ‘If I knew, I would have stayed.’ She was pregnant with me but didn’t know.
“They reached Melilla, climbed the fence and the civil guard detained them. They didn’t have papers and came as migrants, so you get sent back. When they were in jail a lawyer from [the Catholic aid organisation] Caritas who spoke English said: ‘The only thing you can try is tell them you’re from a country at war.’ They tore up their Ghanaian papers and said they were from Liberia to apply for political asylum. Thanks to him, we arrived in Bilbao.”
The Williams brothers were both born in Bilbao ; Inaki on 15th June 1994 and Nico on 12th July 2002. That is where doors opened for them to become professional footballers today.
When their parents look back at their story and seeing their sons at the biggest soccer competition of the world , they would surely not regret to have embarked on that adventure.
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