Though Inaki Williams is not the first player of African descent to make it at Bilbao. Jonas Ramalho, son of an Angolan father, played for the main team in 2011.
Williams was part of the squad that stunned Barcelona to win the Spanish Super Cup title in August, Bilbao’s first major title in 31 years. Williams had scored the team’s lone goal when they lost the Copa del Rey final 3-1 to Barcelona just a few weeks earlier.
Inaki Williams became the first black player to score in Athletic Bilbao’s 117-year history after netting against Torino in 2015.
Williams’ opener came after nine minutes of the 2-2 Europa League round-of-32 first-leg draw for the Basque side, who only field players either native to or trained in the region.
Athletico Bilbao also lost Copa finals to Barcelona in 2009 and 2012. They were runner-up to Atletico Madrid in the Europa League in 2012.
Bilbao are eight-time Spanish league champions, with their last triumph in the 1983/84 season.
watch inaki’s first goal here;
Williams looks like an outsider in a line-up filled with traditional Basque surnames such as Etxeita, Aduriz, Eraso and Iturraspe. The speedy forward earlier this year became the first black player to score for Bilbao in their 117-year history.
“I was born here, but my origins and roots are not forgotten,” Williams says. “I feel like I’m Basque, but I know that there is part of me that is also African.”
The club have an internal “code” that says they can only sign local-born players, or those who have come through the academies of teams in the Basque region. Bilbao take pride in this policy of investing in “homegrown talents”, which they call a “defining characteristic” of the organisation.
“Athletic Club as an institution, along with its supporters, are characterised by their desire to defend values which are becoming increasingly uncommon in football and in sports overall in the 21st century,” the club say boldly on their website, with Williams’s photo featured in the background. “[It has] become a uniting force which outweighs the discrepancies to be found in our daily lives, making our philosophy different to any other and different to the way football is understood throughout the world.”