Why do brothers Inaki Williams and Nico Williams play for different nations?

Nico Williams of Spain in action during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group E match between Spain and Germany at Al Bayt Stadium on November 27, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar.
(Image credit: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Inaki Williams and his younger brother Nico Williams are two of their countries' most exciting attackers at World Cup 2022… but it's not the same country.

We've seen this before – even at the World Cup. In 2014, Jerome Boateng lined up for eventual champions Germany against his brother Kevin-Prince, while two years later at Euro 2016, Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka played against elder brother Taulant for Albania, giving their mother perhaps the best excuse for a half-and-half shirt ever. 

Like both the Boatengs and the Xhakas, both Inaki and Nico Williams were born in the same country. Except one chose not to represent that nation…

Inaki Williams and Nico Williams: the story of why one plays for Ghana and the other Spain

Inaki Williams controls the ball as he is challenged by Portugal's goalkeeper #22 Diogo Costa during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group H football match between Portugal and Ghana at Stadium 974 in Doha on November 24, 2022.

Inaki Williams controls the ball as he is challenged by Portugal's goalkeeper Diogo Costa (Image credit: MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)

Both the Williams brothers were born in Spain. Their parents travelled over from western Africa, crossing the Sahara desert and when they reached Spain, they were advised by an unidentified lawyer to say that they had travelled from Liberia, rather than Ghana – where they were actually from. 

Inaki Williams was born first, in 1994. He was a regular for Spain's under-21s and even received a cap at senior level in 2016 – he's also played a couple of times for a Basque Country side that isn't officially recognised by FIFA. But though Williams the elder holds the La Liga record for having played 240 matches in a row, he was ignored by the Spanish national side for much of his Athletic Bilbao career. 

Essentially, Spain never thought Inaki would take the call from Ghana, with the man himself even admitting, "I don't think it would be right to take the place of someone who really deserves to go and who feels Ghana 100%" – but when the Black Stars came calling this year, the Spanish realised that lightning could strike twice. 

Luis Enrique was keen to avoid losing a second Williams brother to Ghana and called up Nico for Nations League fixtures in September, despite the attacker only being 20 years of age. There's a chance, of course, that they could have played together for Spain – maybe La Roja will come to regret that, since Inaki was clearly keen to represent the country of his birth. 

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