Ernesto Valverde decided to put Nico Williams on the bench this Saturday, after the commotion that arose after the player’s cancellation of registration on social networks was announced due to the insults he received for missing two goals scored against Osasuna, last Tuesday. “I wanted to give him some air,” explained the coach. A pause to stop exposing his figure, that of a boy of just 20 with a lot to learn. It was not a punishment, nor a warning, quite the contrary. Valverde had been very tough the day before with Nico’s pursuers. “These comments respond more to people’s moral turpitude than anything else”, underlined the Athletic coach.

Before the game, the little Williams had recovered the nets after the initial decision. He posted a smiling photo, along with several fans in Barcelona. So the circumstances of the match could not have been more favourable. Brother Iñaki scored, in his own style, after a long career, in the 22nd minute, and after making a significant gesture to the stands where he received racist insults in 2020, and which ended up in court, he addressed the band to hug your little brother. “It has been very exciting. Iñaki knows more than anyone how sick I was”, pointed out Nico. “That hug helped me believe in myself.” The circle closed when Nico entered the field, received it on the side, dribbled the duo and put the ball where Pacheco could not reach it. Any doubts about the youngest of the family were dispelled in that moment.

But not the advice the eldest gave the youngest throughout his career. Eight years older than Nico, Iñaki had to live through more difficult situations at home than his brother. “He didn’t know them,” he said in an interview with EL PAÍS. “He had everything more chewed up”, pointed out Iñaki, who for years, in the absence of a father figure, had to activate this role. “I often have to pull his ears,” he confessed. “I had to act like a father to him. I try to make him see that here nobody gives anything, that everything will have to be conquered by himself”.

Nico is discovering this because he is in professional football. The ferocity with which the nets acted against him, due to errors in the field, is part of that learning. He was lucky that his teammates at the club reacted in unison. Also Atlético fans, rejecting those who took refuge in anonymity to insult. The nasty comments did not include any with racist overtones. Perhaps the request for two years in prison for Iñaki’s verbal abuser deterred the attackers this time.

Possibly Iñaki, due to his age, is closer to reality than Nico. A year ago, he insisted on taking the whole family to Ghana, the land of his ancestors, and collaborates with associations that help Ghanaian children. And he stayed at Athletic despite foreign offers. “My mum is from Athletic and she doesn’t think about leaving me,” he said when renewing. Perhaps the unjustifiable behavior against Nico is due in part to the fact that he has not shown that loyalty that the most radical demand of Rojiblanco players.

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