Welcome to the Philippines: Andray Blatche is granted citizenship to play for country’s national basketball team


(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

If your home country doesn’t ask you to join its national basketball team, find another one. That’s what Andray Blatche did and he’s now just one signature away from becoming the the most famous player on the national basketball team of the Philippines.

The Philippine Senate approved a bill to grant Blatche naturalized citizenship on Monday, according to the Philippine Star. The bill is now awaiting final passage by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. It’s expected to pass.

Philippines national team Coach Chot Reyes is predictably very excited, as this clears the way for Blatche to participate for the Philippines in the FIBA Basketball World Cup, which runs from August 30 to September 14 this year.

“Andray Blatche has openly expressed his desire to play for the Philippines. He is in a position…to make significant contributions to Philippine basketball and accordingly, eligible for the conferment of the honor of being a Philippine citizen,” Senator Sonny Angara told the Philippine Star after House Bill No. 4084 passed. He added: “Blatche is possibly the best center from the NBA that we can get who is willing to shun more lucrative offers now and in the future just to be part of our national team.”

Blatche has neither been to the Philippines nor has any Philippine heritage, but according to Angara that shouldn’t be a problem. “International tournaments allow countries to be represented by naturalized players subject to certain conditions like the number of naturalized players in a team,” Angara told the Philippine Star.

And just in case you’re wondering, Gilas Pilipinas, the country’s national team, can use the help. The last time the team qualified for the World Cup was in 1978.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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Cindy Boren · May 27

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