Kouame, Marañon near naturalization; Hope springs for Ateneo center joining Gilas | Inquirer Sports
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Kouame, Marañon near naturalization; Hope springs for Ateneo center joining Gilas

By: - Reporter / @NCorralesINQ
/ 04:02 AM February 17, 2021
Ateneo's Angelo Kouame.

Ateneo’s Angelo Kouame. INQUIRER PHOTO/TRISTAN TAMAYO

It will take a lot of factors falling into place, but certain events have already opened the door ever so slightly for Angelo Kouame to suit up for the Philippines in the final qualifying window for the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup.

“It’s still going to take a lot of ‘ifs’ but at least there’s some hope,” Rep. Robbie Puno told the Inquirer on Tuesday after the House of Representatives approved separate bills granting Filipino citizenship to Ateneo’s Ivorian center and Spanish football star Bienvenido Morejon Marañon earlier than expected.

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Puno said the Senate still has to approve its counterpart bill, which it will try to tackle as early as next week.

“If there’s no difference between both bills, that cuts a step in the process,” said the Deputy Speaker, who also said the cancellation of the third window, first in Clark then in Doha, Qatar, cracked an opening for Kouame to join Gilas Pilipinas for the third qualifying window. “If the Senate can approve their bill within the next two weeks and if the third window is rescheduled no earlier than late March, then we can forward that to President Duterte for his signature.”

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Puno, however, said that with several things needing to happen to get Kouame naturalized, “It would be wise for the SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) to not put all their eggs in one basket.”

Voting 210-0, the House approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 8632, which seeks to naturalize Kouame. Voting 206-0, the lower chamber also approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 8631, granting Filipino citizenship to Marañon.

Puno, the vice chair of the SBP, earlier said Kouame “would be a great addition to Philippine basketball and the Philippine sporting community at large.”

Marañon’s grand plans

“And while he may not have been a Filipino by birth, he embodies the Filipino values of perseverance, determination and dedication to his craft,” Puno said.

Rep. Manuel Luis Lopez, who filed the bill for Marañon’s citizenship, said the striker “has shown exceptional skills complemented by commendable work ethics.”

“He is known as one of the most prolific scorers in Southeast Asia. If granted the opportunity to play for the Philippines, Marañon will undoubtedly be an invaluable asset to the national football team, the Azkals, and bring pride and honor to our country,” Lopez said.

Marañon also has grand plans for football in the Philippines, which he revealed in an earlier interview.

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“I’m here to focus on the youth and the young players—maybe kids 6 years old to 12 years old—and make them love the game more,” said the striker who owns the AFC Cup record with 35 goals. “They can always play football and not just basketball. If we can start having more of that little by little, we can actually have more academies and more players.”

“When I was young in Spain, I played in the streets because my family cannot afford sending me to an academy. I think that really forced me to work harder because I want to help my family since we came from a very humble background.” —With a report from Francis T. J. Ochoa INQ

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TAGS: 2021 Fiba Asia Cup, Angelo Kouame, Basketball
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