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Senators push Kouame naturalization before 2021 FIBA qualifiers this month

ANGELO KOUAME

By VANNE ELAINE TERRAZOLA

Senators rallied behind Angelo Kouame’s bid for a Filipino citizenship as the bill for his naturalization reached the Senate plenary on Tuesday.

Senator Richard Gordon, chairperson of Senate justice and human rights committee, sponsored House Bill No. 8632 under Committee Report 189, which calls for the naturalization of Kouame, who is being eyed by Gilas Pilipinas as its naturalized player for the upcoming 2021 FIBA Regional Qualifiers.

Koaume, according to Gordon, was “talagang (really) home-grown” unlike other imports “pupunta rito tapos magpapa-citizenship tapos forget na tayo sa kanila (who will go here then acquire citizenship, and then will forget us later).”

The Ivorian basketball player moved to the Philippines in 2016 and studied high school in Quezon City before becoming a student-athlete of Ateneo de Manila University.

Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who is currently the chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), also co-sponsored Kouame’s bid for a citizenship, saying he has already trained with members of the Philippine national team.

Kouame’s inclusion as a Gilas Pilipinas player “will really be a leveling up for our country”, he said.

“Hopefully we can pass this bill in time for [the] elimination matches of Gilas in late March this year,” Angara appealed.

Sen. Joel Villanueva, for his part, jested he is setting aside school rivalry to support Kouame, who, he said, “would surely brighten the colors of our flag and send the Filipino athlete flying high.”

“This Growling Tiger is willing to give an assist to the sponsor who is a Blue Eagle cheerleader so he can slam-dunk this bill,” Villanueva, a graduate and former athlete of the University of Sto. Tomas, said of Gordon, who was a member of Ateneo’s Blue Babble Batallion.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go also backed Kouame’s naturalization, saying it “will definitely bolster our country’s chances in several basketball tournaments.”

“But beyond that, we would have a new brother that we can proudly call ‘Filipino’,” Go added.

Aside from the Kouame’s naturalization, Gordon also sponsored on Tuesday the bill for the grant of citizenship to Spanish footballer Bienvenido Marañon.

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