Doha: Spain winger Nico Williams wants to take his sibling rivalry with older brother, Ghana striker Inaki Williams, from local parks to the biggest stage of all.
Team-mates at Athletic Bilbao, the pair are extremely close, but Nico, 20, is hoping their paths can cross at the World Cup in Qatar.
They both managed to score in the same Athletic match for the first time in September and could potentially meet as foes from the quarter-final stage.
The Williams brothers would be only the second set of siblings to face each other at a World Cup after Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng did in 2010 and 2014 for Germany and Ghana respectively.
“Above all I’d like to face Ghana,” Nico told AFP in an interview at Spain’s Doha training base, the University of Qatar.
“It’s that sibling rivalry, we always had a bit of needle in the parks when we were little, and I hope we can do it as professionals.”
A deep bond endures between the brothers, whose parents endured a nightmarish 4,000 kilometre journey from Ghana to Melilla, a Spanish enclave in north Africa.
The route was partly barefoot across baking Sahara terrain, a risk they deemed worth taking to seek a better life.
Maria Williams, their mother, was pregnant with Inaki at the time and, after her and father Felix Williams were granted asylum in Bilbao, he was born there in 1994.
It’s where he has remained, along with Nico who arrived eight years later, with the younger Williams brother exploding this year in the Spanish top flight.
Inaki, capped by Spain in a friendly, declared his international allegiance for Ghana in July, and Nico earned his first cap under coach Luis Enrique in September.
That was followed by the World Cup nod after making a crucial assist against Portugal to help Spain reach the Nations League final four.
Fearsome on the right flank for his club, Nico credits his brother with helping him find his footing at football’s top level.
“Always,” said Nico, when asked if Inaki gave him advice.
“An older brother has to, and I’m very happy with his advice, I enjoy playing more because of it.”
In the absence of Inaki, Nico says it is Barcelona lynchpin Sergio Busquets who helps him with Spain, as well as other veterans likeCesar Azpilicueta and Dani Carvajal.
Nico believes Inaki deciding to go his own way and play for Ghana was “a respectable decision” but he was always determined to play for Spain, even if it happened quicker than he could have imagined.
“I always knew that I wanted to be here, to be part of the Spanish national team,” said Nico. “It caught me out a bit, the call from Luis Enrique, I’m a very young kid, things have moved quickly and I didn’t expect it.”
Given Inaki’s only Spain appearance came in 2016, and Nico is just starting his professional career, until recently it seemed unlikely either would feature at this World Cup, let alone both.
“The truth is that we could never have imagined that we would reach this level, two brothers playing for the same club, each one in a national team and at a World Cup,” said Nico.
“In life this situation happens rarely, and my family is very happy and proud that we are here.
“Seeing the suffering of my parents, what they have gone through, it makes you think about things more, you don’t have this mentality that maybe a 20-year-old has.
“They have given everything for us, my brother and I, suffered a lot for us, above all for me, (Inaki) had it a bit worse than me.
“My brother is protective of me, he wants to help me, and because of that I am the person that I am today.”