They were born in Spain and share attacking skills for Athletic Bilbao. In Qatar 2022, they will represent Ghana and Spain, respectively. The story of a refugee family and the differences with Jerome and Kevin Prince Boateng, the only case of brothers facing each other in a World Cup
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“We are fulfilling dreams that neither of us could imagine recently. We are about to play a World Cup!” said Iñaki (Getty)
On June 23, 2010 at the Soccer City stadium in the South African city of Johannesburg Jerome wore the number 20 shirt for Germany and Kevin Prince wore the 23 for Ghana. It was the second date of Group D of the World Cup and Germany won 1-0. On June 21, 2014 at the Arena Castelao stadium in the Brazilian city of Fortaleza Jerome wore the number 20 shirt of Germany and Kevin Prince wore the 9 from Ghana. It was the second date of Group G of the World Cup and they tied 2-2. Germany and Ghana faced each other again: also the Boatengs. They had been the only two times in which two brothers played against each other in a World Cup. The asterisk may be repeated in Qatar 2022.
Prince Boateng was born in Ghana and moved to Germany in the 1980s: escaping from the political and social turmoil, from a new military coup and taking refuge in the Reinickendorfer Füchse, a Berlin soccer team that was struggling financially. In 1987, the result of a relationship with a woman named Christine, his first child was born: Kevin. In 1988, the result of a relationship with a woman named Nina, his second son was born: Jerome.
Prince abandoned them. The brothers lived without paternal references in the houses of their respective mothers. Jerome grew up in an affluent Berlin neighborhood. Kevin no: his childhood was lived in Wedding, a humble working-class neighborhood where he formed a rebellious and defiant character. His tattoos, his ups and downs and his controversial club outings contrast with the sober and serene personality of his brother. Jerome decided to defend his mother's nation team. Kevin, who included his father's name in his identity, chose the colors of his paternal heritage. They maintained a cordial treatment, just that. The cold greetings in the ceremonies prior to the matches portrayed a certain resentment.
Kevin Prince went through twelve clubs and is currently playing the last year of his career at Hertha Berlin, where he made his debut. Jerome played for five clubs and today he plays for Olympique de Marseille (Getty)
The Williams will be able to join the Boateng club: rival brothers in World Cups. One is Iñaki. The other one is Nico. The two were born in different cities in Spain, where their parents had arrived from Ghana as refugees. “I would see the news, people risking their lives, and I would ask them: 'How did you get there?' And she, always: 'By plane, by plane'. As a child you believe everything your mother says. But as I got older, more aware of things, something would make a noise. And one day, seriously, I told her: 'Mom, I want to know the true story: why, how, when, where'. And she told me. But if I don't ask her, she would go on without telling us, “Iñaki recalled, in dialogue with El Correo .
The eldest was born in Bilbao on June 15, 1994. He is 28 years old. The minor was born in Pamplona, where the family had moved for Iñaki to attend primary school, on July 12, 2002. He is 20 years old. The older one wears number 9. The younger one wears number 11. Both are forwards, both play for Athletic Bilbao. On Friday, November 11, Luis Enrique included Nico in the 26 selected to represent Spain in Qatar. On Monday, November 14, Otto Addo added Iñaki to the 26 chosen to represent Ghana in Qatar. La Roja is in group E and will compete against Germany, Japan and Costa Rica, while the Black Stars are in group H and will play against Portugal, South Korea and Uruguay.
On May 29, 2016 at the AFG Arena in the Swiss city of San Gallo, Iñaki Williams entered in the 60th minute for Marco Asensio. Spain beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-1 in a preparatory match for the Euro Cup that year. It was the senior national team debut for the eldest of the Williams brothers. Six years later, on July 5, 2022, the Athletic Bilbao striker announced on his social networks: “Today a great challenge begins. Starting today I will defend the Ghana shirt, with my values as the flag, giving my all every minute and always giving my best. I'm one of The Black Stars”.
Nico with the Spain shirt. Iñaki with the one from Ghana: they would only meet in a hypothetical crossover of the World Cup qualifiers (Getty)
“Every step we take in life has a meaning, an evolution, a look at the future that in turn leaves a mark, a legacy. My parents have always instilled in me values based on humility, respect and love. They have taught me the way I have to face life in this constant struggle to continue growing and working to improve as a person and as a professional. That is why I feel that the time has come to meet my roots and myself. And with all that Africa and Ghana mean to my family and me”, he expresses in the video, adding that he wants to “ give back to Ghana a small part of what it has given us and what it has contributed to me as a person, as a son, as a brother.”
Iñaki acknowledged having been to his parents' country only twice. “As a child, 2 years old, I don't even remember; and, before the pandemic, on vacation for a month. At first it seemed strange to me, but it was very emotional to see the environment and the places that they had told me about. We have our roots, our family history. We don't know what it's like to live in Africa, butmy parents' values and culture are part of my identityAnd that's something I'll never forget. I know what my parents have been through and I know they have been hungry.”
The Williams brothers are forwards and only played professionally for Athletic Bilbao (Getty)
Nico said that this trip to the land of his parents was decisive for Iñaki's decision: “My brother thought about it a lot, whether to go with the national team or with Ghana, but what marked him was the trip we took there that summer. Seeing all the people made him take the big step of opting for the Ghana national team, assuming that role in which hopefully he will do well and score many goals”. In a joint interview they gave to Marca He said that his brother told him that he had made the choice to play for Ghana in a private talk. “I want my brother to succeed in Ghana and in Athletic”, he replied. “We are fulfilling dreams that neither of us could have imagined recently. We are about to play a World Cup!”, celebrated Iñaki.
Eight years have passed. His parents were rarely at home because they had to work. The older one had to take care of the younger one. “We have spent a lot of time together growing up. Many times I have had to scold him. It was very demanding”, remarked Iñaki. In the room he slept upstairs and Nico downstairs. There was a telly. A playstation appeared that the older one gave to the younger one. When they found out about the subpoenas, they called their mother who was in Ghana. “She was super happy and very proud of us. No one could have imagined that this could happen to us,” Nico recalled. They are the brothers who can replicate in Qatar 2022 the precedent that only belongs to the Boatengs.