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Ceres Negros stars Marañon, Mendy up for naturalization

Bienve Marañon could be suiting up for the Azkals soon. AFC (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—The Philippine Azkals could get major boosts in the near future as two foreign strikers are up for naturalization.

Senator Migz Zubiri filed two separate bills seeking for the naturalization of Ceres Negros forwards Robert Lopez Mendy and Bienve Marañon.

Zubiri first filed Senate Bill 1390 to begin the naturalization process for Lopez Mendy before immediately filing another bill, SB 1391, for the case of Marañon.

Mendy, who just turned 33 last month, began pursuing what would be a colorful professional football career in the Philippines in 2013, playing first for Forza in the defunct UFL before starring for Green Archers United, Kaya Iloilo, and his current club, Ceres Negros.

Zubiri said in his explanatory note that the Senegalese forward "dreams to become part of the Philippine National Soccer Team and contribute in bringing honor and glory to the Philippines as it joins more international competitions in the future."

What could make Mendy's naturalization easier to be approved is the fact that he is married for four years to a Filipina named Maebel Lacastesantos.

"Mr. Mendy envisions a Philippines that is known not only in the worlds of basketball and boxing. It is his desire to play an integral part in developing football in the country and helping mold the youth to become competitive and at the same time teach them to uphold the ideals of sportsmanship and fair play," Zubiri further said.

On the other hand, Marañon finally got a taste of top flight football when he signed with Ceres Negros in 2015 after beginning his career in the lower tier leagues in Spain.

Marañon instantly made impact for the Bacolod-based club, helping the team win four top division titles in the last five years including last year's "invincible" run in the PFL.

His impact also reached the Asian level as he just became the AFC Cup's all-time leading scorer through a brace in Ceres Negros' win over Bali United on Wednesday night.

[Related Story: Ceres Negros whips Bali United in closed-door battle]

Aside from playing for the Azkals, the 33-year-old striker, according to Zubiri in his explanatory note for the bill, "dreams of building a family in this country, and raising his children surrounded by the kindness, humility, and hospitality that Filipinos are known for."

FIFA rules allow foreign players to play for a specific country as naturalized players provided that they have already lived in the said nation for at least five years after they turned 18 and never played for their native country's national team prior to their decision to undergo naturalization, something that both Marañon and Mendy already satisfied.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno