Football: Marañon 'can't wait' to make Azkals debut

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 02 2021 05:52 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Naturalized Filipino striker Bienvenido Marañon is ready to buckle down to work with the Philippine Azkals as they gear up for the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup, to be held in Singapore from December 5 to January 1.

Head coach Scott Cooper called up a 27-man pool for the tournament, including Marañon who is expected to make his debut for the Philippines after being naturalized in July.

It is a highly-anticipated debut for the Spanish-born forward, who was disappointed to have missed out on the Azkals' campaign in the FIFA World Cup/AFC Asian Cup qualifiers in June as his naturalization had yet to be signed into law at the time.

"We will try to give our 200% every single game," said Marañon, who stars for United City FC at the club level. "We are not fighting for a team, we are fighting for the country. We are representing the country, and now it's a different story."

"I can't wait to start the training, start the games, because for me, this is totally different to what I did before," he added.

The 35-year-old Marañon gives the Azkals a tremendous goal-scoring threat. He is the all-time leading goal-scorer in the AFC Cup and won the Golden Boot in the 2020 season of the Philippines Football League.

"What I can offer to them, what I can do, is train hard, try to do my best. Of course, I cannot promise I will score goals. I promise them, work hard, and the goal will come," Marañon said.

Even as plenty of attention will be on him, Marañon insisted that there is no pressure for him and instead embraced the "honor" of finally getting to play for the Philippines. 

Born in Cadiz, Spain, Marañon has played club football in the Philippines since 2015 and has not been shy about his dream of becoming a naturalized Filipino -- a dream that finally came true this year.

"For me, this is something new. It's not the same to play with my club or to play Champions League in the AFC. This is totally different. Now we are representing the country, a country that I fall in love, and now it's a different story," he said.

"But for me, there's no pressure on this, I will try to do my best, and I think with this, it's enough," he adde. "Every time in my life, I play football to enjoy, I play football to make the supporters happy, and today, during this game in Suzuki Cup will be the same."

"I will try to do my best, and I'm sure this will be enough to make them happy."

Marañon will have five days to familiarize himself with the system implemented by Cooper and to get to know his new teammates in the Azkals. He will see plenty of familiar faces in the team, including veteran midfielder and team captain Stephan Schrock who plays with Marañon in United City.

The team is currently in quarantine in Singapore but they are expected to begin training by Thursday afternoon or Friday.

"I will try to adjust to the team, and the team to me also," Marañon said. "I think these five days that we have to train before the games, I think will be very important for me and for them to make clear everything."

"We have a few days of training. I hope from today, I can learn what I have to do, and for sure before the first game against Singapore on December 8, I will be clear in everything," he added.

The Azkals open their Suzuki Cup campaign against Singapore on December 8.