Congress approves naturalization of Gilas player Kouame

Published December 2, 2020, 4:49 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Angelo Kouame might soon play for Gilas Pilipinas if his naturalization goes smoothly. (Photo from UAAP)

The naturalization bid of Gilas Pilipinas member Angelo Kouame got a big boost after the Committee on Justice approved House Bill 5951 which grants the Filipino citizenship to the young big man from Ivory Coast.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio was appreciative on the action taken by congress.

“The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) extends its gratitude to the House Committee on Justice for their swift approval of House Bill 5951, the naturalization of Angelo Kouame,” said Panlilio.

“We thank Congressman Robbie Puno for filing the bill and for being a constant ally of the Philippine basketball community. The SBP also thanks Senator Sonny Angara for filing SB 1982, the counterpart of the bill for the Senate.”

The next step for the 22-year-old Kouame is for the Senate to give his naturalization a thumbs up before President Rodrigo Duterte hands his final approval.

The 6-foot-10 Kouame currently plays for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP.

Kouame was included in the 16-man training pool roster that prepared for the resumption of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifying tournament, but when the team left for Bahrain, he was left out since his naturalization papers are still pending approval.

Despite the absence of a naturalized player, the all-amateur national team dominated Thailand in the two games they played against each other that improved the record of Gilas to 3-0 in Group A.

“Our Gilas Pilipinas Men’s Team was able to jumpstart our preparations for 2023 with their inspired performance in Manama, Bahrain in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and receiving this good news from the House of Representatives gives our program even more momentum,” said Panlilio.

“We remain hopeful that Angelo Kouame will be able to play as a Filipino at the soonest time possible as every FIBA window is an opportunity to build on the future of Philippine basketball.”

The next window of FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers is set February 2021, and the SBP already expressed to FIBA its intention to host the event similar to the bubble type set up in Bahrain.

Naturalizing a foreign player to play for the Philippines isn’t new after former President Benigno Aquino III signed the naturalization papers of former NBA player Andrey Blatche (2014) and Marcus Douhtit (2011).

In the 80s, former President Ferdinand Marcos granted naturalization of several American players, including Dennis Steele, Jeff Moore and Chip Engelland that paved the way for them to play for NCC-Philippine Team of Ron Jacobs with then amateurs Allan Caidic, Samby Lim and Hector Calma.