Williams brothers in World Cup with different teams

Nov 13, 2022, 3:23 PM | Updated: Nov 14, 2022, 5:25 am

FILE - Spain's Nico Williams, centre, in action during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between...

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. (AP Photo/Jose Breton, File)

(AP Photo/Jose Breton, File)

Brothers, teammates and, now, World Cup rivals.

Athletic Bilbao forwards Iñaki and Nico Williams are set to become the latest brothers to play for different countries in a World Cup.

Iñaki Williams was selected by Ghana on Monday, and his younger brother Nico Williams had been picked by Spain last week.

They 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.

The Boatengs, who played against each other in both tournaments, were born to a Ghanaian father and were raised by separate mothers in Germany. The Williams brothers were born in Spain from Ghanaian parents who made the long journey to Europe looking for a better life.

To make it to Spain, they had to ride on the back of a crowded truck and walk barefoot through the Sahara desert, according to Iñaki Williams. His mother was already pregnant with him when the couple were detained while trying to enter Spain. They eventually received political asylum after taking advice from a charity worker who told them to say they had fled a civil war in Liberia.

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.

“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 fulfil their dreams.”

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.

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.


There are a few examples of siblings playing for the same national team in World Cups, including the three Palacios brothers with Honduras in the 2010 tournament.

Ghana had brothers Andre and Jordan Ayew — sons of three-time African player of the year Abedi Pele — play together at the 2014 World Cup, and they will be back to play in Qatar this month.

Ivory Coast played with Yaya and Kolo Toure in 2010 and in 2014, while Jonathan and Giovani dos Santos played for México in 2018, as did Eden and Thorgan Hazard for Belgium.

Twins Frank and Ronald de Boer were in the Dutch team in the 1994 and 1998 World Cups, reaching the semifinals in 1998. Another pair of Dutch twins — Rene and Willy van de Kerkhof — made the final twice, in 1974 and 1978, both times coming up short of the title. Erwin and Ronald Koeman were not twins but in 1990 also played with the Netherlands.

The Danish national team had Brian and Michael Laudrup in the 1998 tournament, while England counted on Jack and Bobby Charlton in the 1966 and 1970 World Cups.

Spain and Ghana are in different groups in Qatar, so the Williams brothers won’t be able to 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.”


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzon

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

7 months ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

7 months ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

7 months ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

7 months ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

7 months ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

7 months ago

Williams brothers in World Cup with different teams