Iñaki Williams “I Would Like To Celebrate A Goal With A Special Gesture Against The Scourge Of Racism”
Iñaki Williams is a trailblazer for Athletic. As the first, and only, black player to ever score a goal for the club Williams has become one of the faces of the current generation. In light of recent events, Williams has been outspoken about the importance of unity and coming together to end racism. He wears a band that reads “No To Racism” on his left wrist and knows firsthand what it’s like to suffer racial abuse.
On Sunday Athletic will return to action for the first time in three months and Williams is eagerly looking forward to the match. The Basques hope to defeat Atlético Madrid to add an important three points and Williams plans to use his platform to call for change. “I would like to celebrate a goal with a special gesture against the scourge of racism,” Williams told Onda Cero during an interview.
The forward went on to share that he’s very much looking forward to taking the field on Sunday. Ultimately, he hopes that playing football will give fans joy after the last few months of suffering.
“I’m really excited for the league to begin again. In the end, being able to play means that we’re defeating this pandemic and that we’re privileged. We’re going to give an example of effort and we’re going to entertain many people who have had a bad time. We’re going to try to support and encourage others.”
Athletic’s only goal is to qualify for Europe and for that to happen the Lions must finish in the top seven. Kicking off the final eleven games of the season against Atlético Madrid will be far from easy.
“Atlético is a very tough opponent. We have the possibility of winning, of making people enjoy football again, but it’s true that we’re going to miss our fans at Sa Mamés. We have to be professionals and try to go out with everything to win. In Germany we’ve seen that home fields have not been decisive. We have to start from the first minute with everything because we’re seeing that many goals are conceded at the beginning of matches and the start of the second half. We have to be plugged in because Atlético is strong.”
Despite the three-month stoppage, Williams isn’t taking Atlético for granted. Diego Simeone’s side are always a problem and Athletic are expecting anything different at San Mamés.
“They’ve been doing things well for many years. Just before the break they eliminated Liverpool. Perhaps not everyone likes the way they play, but they have very effective players and play their style of football. Any other team would have lost at Liverpool, but they didn’t because they fought and took the game forward. We have to be very careful. We also have our weapons. We’re very strong and we will try to counter their strengths with our own.”
Atlético have built their success on a strong defensive system, similar to that of Athletic. Williams expects a physical match and is confident that Athletic have the quality to take all three points.
“Yes, they have a formidable defense. Their eleven is very compact and everyone contributes defensively. They close down the middle and leave the wings because they trust in the strength of the defenders they have inside the area. Saúl, Koke, Thomas, Savic…there’s a lot of physical power. It’s going to be a very tough match, but I think we’re going to do very well and we can certainly get the three points.”
No matter how Sunday’s match turns out Williams is just excited to play football again. The return to training five weeks ago was a sign of improvement and being back on the field will be cause for celebration.
“I’m happy because we’ve been taking steps to get things back to normal. After so many months it’s great to be able to feel San Mamés again. Even if it’s only for training it’s always special. I look forward to coming back and feeling like a footballer again. The truth is that I’ve really missed it. We’ve been fine-tuning day by day, working like animals to return in the best possible way, and hopefully the goals I’ve been scoring in training will become goals in the league.”
It’s unfortunate that games will be played behind closed doors. Athletic will miss the support of the fans at San Mamés and even though the team has trained at the stadium Williams says there’s no way to properly prepare for it.
“We’ve trained at San Mamés before and when it’s empty it seems strange. The return of the league with an empty San Mamés is going to be weird and complicated. We have to adapt and we know whoever does it quickly will benefit the most. We have to be professionals and know that we will have the support of fans from home.”
As one of Athletic’s key players Williams is determined to do everything he can to help the team qualify for Europe. “I hope that I can score the goal that gives us victory on Sunday and that we can start adding three by three in the league,” he said. With 33 points left to play for the Basques face a major test this weekend.