Iñaki Williams “I Feel Very Proud Of What I’m Doing”
Iñaki Williams made history on Sunday as he took the field at El Sadar. The forward made his 133rd consecutive La Liga appearance, a new club record for Athletic and an almost unbelievable achievement in modern football. Reaching the milestone was a remarkable occasion and it was even more special for Williams to do it with the club he loves so dearly.
“Every day that I wear the Athletic shirt is a huge thrill,” Williams said in an interview with Fuera de Juego on Monday night. “It’s what I’ve dreamed of since I was little. I’ve wanted to play at San Mamés for as long as I can remember. I feel very proud of what I’m doing.”
Avoiding injuries has played a big role in being able to play so many consecutive games, but Williams is also thankful to have had the confidence of the coaches over the years. The striker also revealed that his friends and family attended the game and that he was happy to be able to celebrate a goal near them.
“I’m very happy and proud of what I’ve achieved. I don’t know what my secret is. I’ve tolerated injuries, I have good genes, and the coaches have had faith in me. I hope I can play 133 more. My parents, my family, and my friends…eveyone was present. They knew it was a special game for me. It was special for them too because I came to play at home. I wanted to dedicate a goal as close as possible to them.”
Williams is always excited to play at El Sadar where he enjoyed many games as a kid, though he was an Athletic fan from a young age. “I grew up in Pamplona. When I played for Club Natación we had passes to go to El Sadar. I was the only one in my group of friends who was an Athletic fan. I have lived and celebrated the good moments of Osasuna.”
It took a late goal from Kenan Kodro, who also has a connection to Osasuna as a former player, for Athletic to win Sunday’s Basque Derby. “The Mister tells us that those who aren’t having many minutes are the most important,” Williams said. “Kodro trains like an animal. I’m very happy for him because it’s something he deserved and I hope he can continue scoring many more goals.”
Oihan Sancet also played a significant role in the game by providing the assist for the opening goal in what was his first start. “Sancet has quality to substitute for Muniain. El Flaco, as I call him, has a lot of talent. It’s very good for me when he plays because he always looks forward and turns very well between the lines. He’s young and must be polished, but he’s a good player and he shows it.”
For the fourth straight game Williams played more on the right wing than as the striker which continues to bring better results. “I started at forward but when we had the winless streak the Mister sought solutions and opted to play Rulo (Raúl García) at the nine,” he explained. “Although I’m on the right, I’m a false winger because I usually finish as the second striker. I feel comfortable, but what I like the most is to play as the nine.”
Williams is focused on improving every day in order to score as many goals as possible and has a great player to learn from in teammate Aritz Aduriz. The 24-year-old shared that he’s try to get as much as he can out of the club legend who will be retiring at the end of the season.
“Training with Aduriz every day is like working with a master. We talk about the movements I make in games and he tells me if he thinks I should have done it that way or another way. I will try to learn everything that I can from him. Aduriz is a reference for the whole team, especially for the young players. They didn’t give him the opportunity here and he had to leave. He came back and they sold him. He came back again and now he’s the club’s reference. What else can I tell you!”
Athletic’s attack has significantly improved over the past month but the team’s success still begins and ends with the defense. “We have the best pair of center-backs in the league and one of the best goalkeepers,” Williams said referring to Yeray, Iñigo Martinez, and goalkeeper Unai Simón who made three big saves in the victory. “It makes everything easier.”
In closing, Williams was asked about this year’s changes to the Copa del Rey format. Instead of playing two legs, matches will be one-game eliminations until the semifinals which many believe will give other clubs the opportunity to compete for the title.
“There will be surprises, but Formentera eliminated us two years ago when there were two games. Why not dream of winning it? Since I was a child I have dreamed of lifting a title with Athletic and I hope it can be the Cup. We don’t have to put a ceiling on our goals. We have a winning streak but we have to keep trusting this team. We have ambition and desire to fight to be in Europe again.”
Athletic’s Copa del Rey campaign will begin on 17 December with a trip to Intercity, but that is still a long way off. For now, the Lions have set their focus on Sunday’s match against Granda which will take place at San Mamés. A win could see the Zurigorri climb as high as 4th in the La Liga table as they look to keep pace in the race for Europe.