Iñaki Williams “I Have A Contract To Be A One Club Man”
In many ways Iñaki Williams has become one of the faces of Athletic Club. In addition to being one of the best players on the team the 25-year-old is also the only black player to ever score a goal for the club. Williams has also won the affection of fans by being very outspoken about his desire to spend his entire career with Athletic which he once again shared during an interview with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo.
“I have a contract to be a One Club Man. Hopefully I can finish this contract here and if I can continue for longer it would be even better. I love Athletic. I’m where I want to be and I’m very happy here. When I renewed the goal was to finish my career here and hopefully this is where I will be able to hang up my boots.”
As one of the highest paid players in the team it’s only natural that fans tend to bring up Williams’s high wages when he isn’t playing well. It’s not something that bothers the striker who has worked hard for everything in his career.
“I’m aware of what I’ve achieved and it’s not easy. I have earned everything I have, nobody has given me anything. When things aren’t going well, perhaps some bring up my wages and attribute it to my performance, but I’m a person who tries to show every day on the pitch that I’m hungry, that I continue to want to improve and score many more goals. Surely with my dedication and effort people will appreciate me because I try to feast on the field every time I go out.”
Williams hopes to one day share the field with his younger brother who has been promoted to Bilbao Athletic for next season. Interestingly, Nico Williams waited to sign a professional contract with the club which Iñaki explained.
“My brother Nico has incredible qualities. It’s true. About him not signing a contract until now, we thought it was right because we didn’t have financial need. Athletic has always wanted to give him a contract but we always told him not to do it, to trust us because we didn’t want Nico to leave.”
Although Iñaki saw firsthand the difficulties his family faced after moving to the Basque Country, his young brother hasn’t experienced the same hardships. The family wanted to protect Nico and ensure that he would continue in Bilbao.
“My brother’s dream and mine go hand in hand. We want to play together in the first team and be a deadly duo. We haven’t wanted him under contract until now because my brother is different from me and his mind was wandering. It’s very difficult to control all of that for such a young boy. Not that he’s a little more mature you can already tell him things, talk to him, trust him, and the truth is that now he’s a man. He’s earned a good contract and he deserves it. We are getting closer to being able to play together.”
Of course, Iñaki shared that it wasn’t just his decision for Nico to wait on a professional contract. The entire family was in agreement and now Nico can enjoy the success that he’s rightfully earned.
“When I say “we” I’m speaking for myself, my family, Nico, and my agent Félix (Tainta). We are all one and we try to make decisions together. Nico has thanked us for this decision. Now it’s time and he’s earned it. Now it’s time to demonstrate. He has to keep meeting deadlines with this new contract, enjoy himself on the field, and try to be better every day.”
Williams is a family man and regularly talks about his incredible relationship with his mother. Even today his mom acts as his financial advisor and he takes her counsel very seriously.
“My mother hasn’t had to correct me in a long time. I’ve become a man and continue to make decisions with my head. In the end I no longer need my mother’s corrections, but even still it’s true that she continues to control my money movements. With everything I spend she has input and gives advice. If she gives me consultation and says no, well, I don’t do it.”
Looking back on the last few months, Williams admitted that the pandemic was a very strange time. “If I tell you the truth, I leaned out the window and couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe we were in the situation we were in. It was totally surreal to go out on the terrace and see the empty streets of Bilbao. What we had to live was unusual.”
Now that life is starting to return to normal, Williams has been able to reflect more on his time during quarantine. In the end, he believes everyone should come out of this with a better outlook on life.
“Some of us were lucky to be with our families and our loved ones. Being able to spend so much time together and being able to do normal day-to-day things that we didn’t usually do was nice. We’re lucky to be alive and to continue counting the days. We all have to come out of this reinforced and be better people.”
Like so many others, Williams was happy to be able to go out each evening to applaud those working every day to improve the situation. Personally, he doesn’t think they can be thanked enough.
“We all used to go out to the windows to applaud for those who risked their lives for us, for the nursers and all the medical workers that have given everything for us without asking for anything else other than we stay in our homes. We applauded them at 8 every night but they deserve endless applause.”
Williams hasn’t missed a single league match since 20 April, 2016 and holds the club record for most consecutive games played with 146. It’s an incredible achievement, but the forward would like to break the all-time La Liga record as well.
“Playing 146 in a row isn’t bad, but I want more. As the games go by I always say to Paco Angulo, the club doctor, ‘Paco, I’m close to 202’ and we burst out laughing. It will be difficult, but I would be very excited to set the record at 203. Injuries have respected me and genetics too. It also helps that the coach keeps playing me every Sunday too.”
Arguably the most prolific player to come through Lezama in the last decade, some say Williams hasn’t lived up to potential. Last season Williams scored 13 league goals, a personal best, but he hopes to do much better in the years ahead.
“Scoring goals is what I love the most. I’m trying to get past 13 or even 15 goals. I have to be ambitious and I always want more. The team needs goals to win goals, to try to reach Europe, and I’m an important asset because I’m the team’s number 9 so I’m required to score goals. If I score many in these last eleven games we will be closer to reaching Europe.”
Williams began his time in the first team by playing on the right wing, though he was primarily a striker growing up. Now he will be tasked with leading the front line following the retirement of Aritz Aduriz.
“Ever since I was little I played the 9 until I reached the first team. At Juvenil, Basconia, and Bilbao Athletic I always played the 9 and even in lower levels with Pamplona as well. It’s where I like to play, where I feel comfortable. I still haven’t reached Aduriz or the sole of his shoe, but I hope I can get to his numbers.”
The club had always planned to use Williams as a striker, but when he was called up to the first team there was a better fit out wide. Regardless of where he plays, Williams just wants to help the team and score goals.
“When I joined Athletic in the Primera the team had a need and a reference, Aduriz. It was very difficult to overtake him because goals fell out of his pockets. Many times when he was not available I would play the 9, but if he was there I would return to the wing or to the bench. What matters most for a striker is scoring goals and if they throw me to the right wing, I will do as I always do: try to finish the plays as a second striker, take shots, get inside, and exploit my speed from the right.”
Unfortunately the pandemic isn’t the only difficult situation that has affected the world. The murder of George Floyd in the United States has resulted in a massive movement across the planet calling for justice and the end of racism.
“It’s very sad what has happened, what is happening. It seems that someone has to die to realize the gravity of the situation. I have always said that athletes, and other people with more weight at the media level, when we suffer from racism we don’t have it as bad as others. Those who have the worst time are the people with little resources who aren’t able to live in peace.”
Williams may not be from the United States, but he has been victim of racial abuse in Spain. Why this continues to be an issue for a country where there are so many celebrated people of color confuses the striker.
“I don’t understand how there is so much racism there when there are so many African-American icons like players on NFL teams, basketball teams, film actors, and singers. The icons of so many cities are black. It seems to be that those who are poor or from more humble neighborhoods have it worse because they’re more vulnerable.”
Williams recently shared a video on social media in support of the protests against the death of Elhadji Ndiaye, a man from Sengal who died four years ago in an Iruñea prison. For Williams, unity and working together are necessary to end the plight of racism.
“I decided to share that video, given of the visibility that I have on social networks, to try to make people aware that racism continues to exist and that if we don’t act everyone will go further. Although white people don’t suffer from it, if they see it they can try to report it. Turning a deaf ear is also racism. We must all try to become aware that the world has to get better, that we no longer live like primates, that we are people and we have feelings and we have to give love.”
In his own words Williams is “proud to be Basque and Black”. The Basque Country is his home, but he will never forget his heritage and the sacrifice his parents made to give him and his brother a better life. As one of the stars of Athletic, Iñaki Williams wants to use his platform to make a difference in the community and fight for equality and justice.