Over a decade ago, when the Philippine national men’s football team started beating the region’s powerhouses, some Association of Southeast Asian Nations fans accused the country of fielding a squad of naturalized players.
Pinoy fans countered back that they weren’t as they were the children of Pinoys who worked abroad, of which we have millions.
I remember one even saying that the Philippines will never naturalize a foreigner to don the country’s colors as what Singapore and Indonesia have done because our talent pool—thanks to the Pinoys based abroad—was vast.
That all changed with the development of the local domestic league. Ever since he started racking up goals for then Ceres FC, Bienvenido Marañón has attracted a lot of “what if talks.” What if he can play for the Azkals?
Now, Marañón, who has also expressed his desire to play for the national team, is a step closer after the House of Representatives approved his naturalization bill.
I used to be against such moves, ever since I learned while watching the 1992 Barcelona Olympics that some athletes transfer nationalities for money. I think there was a time when rich Middle East countries began “importing” players that Fiba had to step in and limit each team to only one.
Over the years, I’ve learned to accept that having naturalized players is simply part of the reality of international sports, especially basketball. We’ve been fortunate too that the players we’ve picked for basketball, like Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche, showed their love for the Philippines wasn’t limited to the court.
As for Marañón, he’s been in the country for a while now and is familiar with Philippine football. I hope the naturalization process gets finalized this year so he can join the squad in the Suzuki Cup.
We’ve made the semifinals four times, but we haven’t made it to the finals yet. Patrick Reichelt, Marañon’s teammate in Ceres Negros, said that for the Philippines, winning the Suzuki Cup is a realistic target and I agree.
Winning the regional title is a goal that we can achieve in our lifetime. Sure it’s nice to dream of seeing the country in the World Cup, but that’s one for Pinoys two or three generations down the line. The Suzuki Cup is one that is within our grasp and perhaps Marañón’s addition can help us get there, faster.