Ghana's No. 1

Will Nico Williams follow brother Iñaki’s lead and opt for the Black Stars ahead of Qatar?

Published on: 29 September 2022

Nico Williams has impressed at the club level this season for Athletic Bilbao to the point where he's just earned his debut for Spain. Plus, he crowned the international duty with an assist against Portugal that sent La Roja to the Final Four of the UEFA Nations League.

With that duly noted, it's worth noting that he's still eligible for Ghana at the international level.

With Ghana in a tricky group together with Portugal, Uruguay, and Son Heung-Min’s South Korea, they are not very favored in the World Cup odds 2022 right now. However, with the pace of both Williams brothers on the line up they could be an underdog to watch.

Could the Black Stars tempt Nico to switch allegiance ahead of Qatar?

Who is Nico Williams?

The makings of a man

Williams was born and raised in one of the Basque areas of Spain's North West - specifically in Pamplona. That though is very much the middle of his journey with much of Williams' personality rooted in his parents’ heritage. His parents, dad Felix and mother Maria, are Ghanaian and their story is a moving one. Williams, however, was a teenager even though he learned of the hurdles they had to clear.

His parents made the choice to leave their homeland, Ghana, back in 1994 with their reason a very simple one - they wanted a better life. Their motivation was their unborn child, namely Iñaki Williams - the Bilbao striker and, more importantly, Nico's older brother.

That journey took them through Burkina Faso and across the Saharan Desert with Melilla - a city located on Morocco's coast but actually being classified as part of Spain - their targeted destination. Their path was trodden without food, drink, and shelter. Along the way their fellow asylum seekers - of which there were around 40 - slowly dropped away.

Some turned back, the same were captured and trafficked and others buried along the way such was the demand placed on them by their journey. The desperation to reach Spain is clearly displayed and Williams' parents still bear the scars today - both physically and mentally.

At last though, Williams' parents reached Melilla. That wasn't the end; his mum - still pregnant - scaled the fence to touch down on Spanish territory and was caught in the act. Both were imprisoned with deportation almost guaranteed; at least it would have been had an unknown lawyer not stepped in and managed to get them transferred to Bilbao.

Nico - nor Iñaki - walked that path but he lives and breathes it now knowing he owes everything to his parents.

The player

One of the biggest things that have come out of Williams' parents’ journeying to Spain is the sporting opportunities that have arrived for him. As a 12-year-old he joined Osasuna's academy and within a couple of years he moved to Athletic Bilbao's youth system with Iñaki - eight years his senior - already an established first-team player for the Basque club.

Williams' senior breakthrough came when he was aged 17 with Basconia - Bilbao's feeder club. Within a couple of appearances he was moved into Bilbao's B team and last season he made his bow for the first team. Throughout most of that time, Williams was knocking about the Spanish youth teams earning caps for the under 18s and 21s such as his technical excellence.

It was his form in the early part of this season that has really caught the eye though. Two goals and one assist from six games is a decent return for the young winger but it is his ability to travel with the ball at his feet that really makes him standout; 7.9 progressive carries per 90 with three completed dribbles per game are stats that make very good reading.

The way he's started the campaign was enough for Luis Enrique to call him up for the Nations League games over the last couple of weeks and he made his senior debut. With the World Cup just a couple of months away there is one big question to answer; will he stay with Spain or could Ghana still turn his head?

Could Williams still declare for Ghana?

There was a lovely moment this week for the Williams household. Nico was earning his debut for Spain - the country for which his parents risked everything to reach - whilst Iñaki was making his first appearance for Ghana - the country from which his parents came. With that comes a fading Ghanaian dream that Iñaki can convince his younger sibling to join him in the Black Stars squad.

At this stage it feels unlikely with Nico firmly expressing his desire to represent Spain, however, the laws of the game would permit him to switch allegiance should he so wish.

Under rules that came in last year, a player that is yet to make three appearances for a country (outside of major tournaments of which the Nations League doesn't count) can still represent an alternative country should they qualify for that nation.

With that in mind, all is not lost for the Black Stars. Regardless of the colors Nico dons in Qatar the story of the Williams family is quite a special one with the next chapter perhaps set up to be the best one ever written.


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