The addition of Kouame to the Gilas Pilipinas national basketball team is a boost to the Philippines’ chances in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, said Senator Sonny Angara.
Angara, the chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, is the principal author of Senate Bill 1892 granting Philippine citizenship to Kouame through naturalization.
While waiting for the approval of his naturalization, the 6’10” Ivorian recruit Kouame has already been training with Gilas Pilipinas in preparation for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifying Windows.
Once the bill is signed by President Rodrigo Duterte, Kouame will officially become a member of Gilas Pilipinas and provide the national squad with much needed support when it competes in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia this coming June 29 to July 4.
The Philippines has been given another shot to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after New Zealand decided to pull out of the tournament in Belgrade.
According to FIBA, the Philippines was selected to replace New Zealand by virtue of Gilas Pilipinas being the next best team in the Asia-Oceania Region in the FIBA world ranking for men’s basketball.
Apart from the OQT, Gilas will also compete in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers scheduled for early June in Clark, Pampanga and the August 16 to 28 FIBA Asia Cup 2021 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Marañon came to the Philippines in May 2015 and played for Ceres Negros Football Club, one of the teams in the Philippine Football League. He was named top scorer and best import in 2017, 2018, and 2019.
In pushing for the approval of the measure, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who authored Senate Bill 1391, said Marañon “has come to love the country and its people” in the five years that he has been playing football in the Philippines.
“He also aspires to represent the Philippines as part of the national team vying in international competitions, and make the country known as one of the top teams in the world of football,” he added.
Senator Richard J. Gordon, who sponsored the bills granting citizenship to the two, said they will boost the strength of the Philippine basketball and football teams.
He said Kouame could also bring great improvement in the country’s chances in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers through his more than a decade of training in football during his childhood in the Ivory Coast.
Maranon engages in community work, collaborating with local football clubs in Sagay and Bacolod in Negros Occidental, Boracay in Aklan, as well as in Manila.
The footballer also wants to inspire and encourage the Filipino youth to play the sport that saved him from drugs, alcohol and other bad habits.
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