When Maria and Felix Williams embarked on that dangerous journey to Spain through the Mediterranean waters to make a clean break from poverty, they aimed to share in Spain’s economic wealth.
And once they gave birth to their sons, the focus was to work hard and give them a better life that will transcend beyond the children’s generation.
Football was never part of the dream, maybe. But come November this year in the oil-rich nation of Qatar, where the World Cup will take place, one of their sons, the well-known footballer Inaki Williams of Athletic Bilbao, will, for the first time, give them a reason why that perilous journey through the Sahara Desert was worth it.
In October 2021, the British Guardian newspaper published an interview it had with Inaki Williams. The article’s headline was: “My parents crossed the desert barefoot to get to Spain.”
Inaki talked about the journey his parents made to get to Spain. He also spoke about the sacrifices they had to make for him and his younger brother, a footballer.
Arguably, one of the best strikers in world football, he has played more than 200 times for his club and scored goals, even against the so-called big teams in La Liga.
Born in the Basque region, he played only once for Spain in 2016. In that interview, he was candid about his Ghanaian parentage and disclosed how he declined attempts to get him to play for the Black Stars. He said he was Spanish first, though he acknowledged his parent’s birth country.
“I’m grateful for where I grew and became who I am. Ghana tried to convince me, but I was born in Bilbao, Spain. I won’t forget my family roots, but I feel Basque and can’t con anyone. I would be comfortable with Ghana, I’m sure, but I shouldn’t be there….”
Regarding the attempts to get him to play for Ghana, he said, “My parents are from Accra, and I enjoy going there. But I wasn’t born or raised there, my culture is here, and there are players for whom it would mean more. So I don’t think it would be right to take the place of someone who deserves to go and feels Ghanaian.”
When the interview came out, Ghanaian football officials had been globetrotting shopping for players of Ghanaian parentage to represent the country. The African Cup of Nations in Cameroon was then months away.
Though the press discussed him in the open, he was never publicly mentioned by any FA official, despite their efforts to get him to commit to Ghana.
The country has since qualified for Qatar, and the hunt for players of Ghanaian origin is still on the cards. From Eddie Nketiah to Callum Hudson Odoi, Tariq Lamptey, Inaki Williams and more, endless efforts were made to get them to play for Ghana.
Even recently, when Tariq and Inaki came to the country for holidays, the cameras followed their movements.
A photo of Inaki ostensibly going through paperwork at Ghana’s immigration appeared on social media. That was how much the public took an interest in their visit to Ghana.
But the football-talking public was left with no more guessing game when the FA released a video of Inaki Williams committing his future to the Black Stars on Tuesday afternoon.
”Today, a new challenge begins. From now on, I will defend Ghana’s T-shirt. With all my will, I give my best. I’m one of the Black Stars”.
President of the football association Kurt Okraku confirmed the video with a tweet containing other players’ names. Included in the list was Southampton’s defender Mohammed Salisu, who is reported to have turned down previous attempts to get him to play for the country.
As expected, the news has divided opinions within the football-loving community, with some describing both Inaki and Salisu as “opportunists” who are only interested in going to the world cup.
“Would these boys have even bothered to play for the country if we hadn’t qualified,” a friend wrote on Facebook.”
Nathan Gadugah, a Black Stars footsoldier who backs the team even in the challenging moments, did not hide his disappointment.
“We hold people to little or no principles. We are a conscienceless country, a country of no values, no principles, and so anyone or anything, from politicians to footballers, can go away with just anything as long as their selfish, parochial, and opportunistic interest is served.”
But not everyone agreed with his characterisation of the players.
“You don’t have a prolific striker, and if one is there to help the country win matches, you sit on social media and say ‘wetin’ – cry all you want, we don’t care,” a user posted on Twitter.
Another user said, “people are being unnecessarily emotional about this issue.
“Too much sense is killing people in this country; if we go and we lose, they will be all over social media, attacking the ancestors of team officials—mstchewwww.”
I am indifferent to this issue. We need suitable materials to help us make a statement in Qatar, and if these materials are good enough for the project, why pretend? The only issue I have is the lack of opportunities for good players who ply their trade in the local league.
I sometimes get the feeling that these players can only get a fair chance to play for the Black Stars when they move out of Africa, even if the clubs they play for are unknown or at the very bottom of the leagues.
Kurt and his friends should remember they have a job because of the local league and not the national teams, so if there are no qualities in the league, then the whip should fall on their backs.
Until we fix this, it is fair to say Bienvenido a casa, Inaki!
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