This article was translated by Joseba Varela
At the beginning of the year, we wrote a comment under the title: Is Iñaki Williams black? Well, we hadn’t noticed. We did so in response to the avalanche of articles that appeared when Iñaki Williams, a Basque player, was the first black person ever to score a goal for the Athletic Club de Bilbao. We then referred to an advertisement we are very fond of and which we always remember when we read articles on this issue. It’s a commercial by Mercedes (to be perfectly clear, we don’t get any money for mentioning this) and we like the message it conveys and the fact that one of its protagonists, the black girl, is called Nerea (a Basque name), just like the subject of our article is called Iñaki (another Basque name).
This time, we have come across an article from The Associated Press by Jorge Garma and Tales Azzoni that was published in the section The Big Story (which has featured “stories of the Basques” on other occasions).
It is an accurately written article that clearly sets out the reasons why Iñaki Williams plays in this Basque team. However, it doesn’t recoil from expressing the “strangeness” of the fact that a non-Basque player who “doesn’t share the local family history and traditions of most of his teammates” is allowed to play for the Athletic Club. Moreover, according to the article, “Williams stands out bizarrely among a lineup of players with such traditional Basque surnames as Etxeita, Aduriz, Eraso and Iturraspe”.
We are afraid that this is just a politically correct way of pointing out that the player is of a different race, as if that was something worth mentioning. The readers should notice that the first statement acknowledges that Iñaki Williams’ case is not unique by stating that the ”local family history” they refer to is not shared by all Athletic players. On the other hand, they go on to mention the “Basque” surnames of Iñaki’s fellow team members. But they don’t mention surnames such as García Escudero, Rico, San José, Herrerín, Viguera, López, Gómez or Merino (to name a few), which they don’t consider to be Basque by their own standards.
The truth is that their attention has been drawn by the player’s skin colour and ethnic origin, something that, anecdotally, hasn’t been the case among Athletic fans and the society of Bizkaia as a whole.
Basque society has changed at a much faster pace than others. It has transformed into an open society capable of welcoming anyone who wishes to join and be part of it. Newcomers aren’t asked anything more than to be respectful and able to integrate into it. Basques aren’t Basque by “birth” anymore, they are Basque because they wish to be so.
The Associated Press has published a great article that will be read all around the world. An article that explains very well the reasons why a Basque of Ghanaian and Liberian origin plays in the Athletic and is treated as an equal by Basque society. Is he black?… Well, we hadn’t noticed.
The Associated Press – 23/12/2015 – USA
Williams: African roots thriving in Spain’s Basque region
Inaki Williams is not the type of soccer player you would expect to see at Athletic Bilbao, the traditional Spanish club which only fields players from Bilbao and its neighboring Basque regions. Williams, a talented 21-year-old striker who has been thriving in his second season with the senior team, is the son of Liberian parents who fled war in Africa in the 1990s. He was born in Bilbao, like many other players in the team, but doesn’t carry the local family history and tradition that nearly all of his teammates have. Williams looks like an outsider in a lineup 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 its 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.”