The Samahang Basektbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is keeping its fingers crossed that Ange Kouame will get his naturalization papers in time for the coming 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
The Philippines will be hosting the third and final window of the qualifiers in Clark on June 16-20 and SBP hopes to get all of Kouame's documents done by then.
“We know that ‘yung both Houses, nilagdaan na ‘yung papeles ni Ange Kouame. I think the next level is it is being transmitted now to the Office of the President and we are just waiting for the actual signature," said special assistant to the SBP president Ryan Gregorio in an interview on The Chasedown on Saturday.
That bill granting Kouame Filipino citizenship was already approved by Congress along with the naturalization of Spanish footballer Bienven Marañon, who will beef up the Philippine Azkals in the coming international tourneys.
It will lapse into law this Monday, but Gregorio is hoping to speed up the process since there will be a few more steps to be taken after the bill becomes a law.
"Kasi after that, papasok na of course ‘yung issuance of passport, yung mga panunumpa, and all that. It is not going to be a quick process. Meron pa ring tayong sundang reglamento at
inaasahan natin na by the time we go to Clark, e ayos na ayos na ‘yung papeles ni Ange Kouame,” said the SBP official.
The presence of the 6-foot-10 Ivorian will be a big boost for Gilas Pilipinas as they will battle South Korea and Indonesia which will be bannered by naturalized former PBA imports.
The South Koreans will have Ricardo Ratliffe, while Indonesia will have Lester Prosper.
“We’ve done the work necessary for us to get approval from Congress and even Senate and all that," said Gregorio on Kouame's naturalization.
"Malapit na, in other words. And we’ve been very patient, and we’ll still continue to be patient. We will be rewarded in the end.”
FROM THE ACHIVES