In the 21st Century, Filipino athletes and sports teams began proving that they could match up against and prevail over even the best opponents the world can throw at them. For team sports especially, this can be realized by means of scouting eligible players with some foreign blood in them. They could be dual-citizenship Filipinos like the Younghusband brothers in football (Azkals) or NBA player Jordan Clarkson for basketball (2018 Asian Games). Then there is the prospect of getting a full foreigner on a national team by having him nationalized as a Filipino, as Andray Blatche was for Gilas Pilipinas.
Now as CNN Philippines has it, among the many articles of legislation the Philippine Congress is working on include two naturalization bills for a couple of foreign athletes with promising skills that could power up the country’s national teams for international competition. One is a collegiate basketball player, Angelo Kouame, age 23 from Cote d’Ivoire/the Ivory Coast in Africa, who has played for Ateneo in the UAAP and won two championships with them. The other is Spaniard Bienvenido Marañon, 34, player for Ceres-Negros, later United City FC, in the Philippine Football League (PFL) with which he has claimed two championships.
The naturalization case for Kouame is being pushed at the House of Representatives by the Deputy Speaker, Rep. Robbie Puno of Antipolo district 1. His House Bill No. 5951, in concert with a Senate Bill by Sen. Sonny Angara, seeks to make Kouame eligible for Gilas Pilipinas in time for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup, co-hosted by the Philippines. Puno, who has also pushed for the naturalizations of Andray Blatche and Marcus Douthit, cites the current national team trend worldwide where the rosters almost always have one naturalized player to complement the natural-born ones. Kouame is actually part of the Gilas training bubble for the upcoming Asia Cup qualifiers.
Meanwhile, Manila first district Rep. Manny Lopez is doing work in the Lower House to complement a Senate Bill for 2020 pushed by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri to naturalize Bienvenido Marañon. Lopez’ House Bill No. 7427 hopes to add the Andalusian footballer’s abilities to the Azkals to better their chances at qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. This initiative has the support of former Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella, as Bacolod had once been the home stadium of Marañon’s PFL team Ceres-Negros before it became United City FC.
The 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup will be played across six cities in Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines, the last of which has four of the venues. The 2022 FIFA World Cup in turn will be held in 9 venues across five host cities throughout Qatar. The Philippine national teams competing in both could certainly use Angelo Kouame and Bienvenido Marañon respectively to not just survive but win. The bills will be discussed in the House plenary Monday, February 8.
Image courtesy of Rappler