Guest post by Martino Simcik Arese
After a week of European competition marred by racism, following the incident involving the Chelsea supporters in Paris, football has given us a reason to be proud. Last night, 21 year old Iñaki Williams made history becoming the first black player to score for Athletic Bilbao in the club’s 117 year history.
Since its foundation, Athletic has played exclusively with Basque players. This is a unique case in European football that has gained Athletic both admirers and critics. The club has been praised for promoting home grown players and club loyalty. However, they are also criticized for being ‘behind the times’ and having a provincial outlook on what their football team represents.
The Basque striker, born of a Ghanaian father and Liberian mother, scored at the 8th minute of a 2-2 draw against the Bulls of Turin. His goal yesterday evening broke the glass ceiling for young second generation migrants living in the Basque country. As he darted into the area to knock the ball into the back of the net, Williams broke down our antiquated understanding of what it means to belong somewhere. He showed that it is cultural upbringing, and not genetics that determine one’s identity.
So credit to the Athletic Bilbao management for giving this kid a chance in the first team. Credit to Iñaki Williams for breaking down our idea of what it means to be “Basque”. Lastly, credit to the Bilbao faithful, who celebrated this goal with the same passion that they have shown to the many hometown heroes that have scored before him.