This appears in the Monday, August 20, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.
These nomads have found a home
story and pics by rick olivares with help from jena fetalino
Founded by British expatriates in 1914, Nomads Sports Club (NSC) is the oldest of its kind in the country. The site of the current club is nestled in the quiet suburb of Merville, Paranaque. “It was nothing then but a barren piece of land with a wooden hut,” said former NSC board member Matt Freeston. Since its move from Makati to Paranaque in 1969, the 2.5-hectare facility has been a haven for expats and for the local populace and has hosted numerous local and international sporting events.
There’s a field where football, rugby, and cricket are played. They have tennis courts, a swimming pool, a basketball court, and a gym. There too, is the ubiquitous bar with television sets tuned into various sports channels.
Contrary to popular belief, the sports teams at Nomads aren’t wholly made up of expats. The club is 40% expat and 60% Filipino. In fact, the current club president, Jena Fetalino, is Filipino.
There are some 45 different nationalities that comprise the membership that is over 400 at present. “You can multiply that by three or four,” said member Thomas Whitwell, “because of one’s dependents.”
Many of the staff that works in the club have inherited the jobs of their parents. “The area behind the club? They call it Barangay Nomads,” chimed in Freeston. “We’ve had the sons of some of our workers eventually take their place in the various facilities around the club.”
On a few occasions, their club team has officially represented the Philippines in an international tournament. NSC greens keeper, Emmanuel Protacio who is originally from Saranggani Province, is a lawn bowler and has won bronze medals in the Asia Pacific Lawn Bowl Championship and the World Champion of Champion Singles Lawn Bowl Championship held in Scotland and Australia.
It’s senior football squad won the UFL’s Division II title two years ago that saw them promoted to the highest level in the country’s only semi-pro league.
And as a bit of trivia, the Philippine Volcanoes were formed in this very club.
“There is a rich history of sports here,” pointed out Nomads’ first team football head coach Michael Denison.
Added Whitwell: “Many of us have settled down in the Philippines and our children also represent the country in different sports and national teams. It bothers me that people consider us foreigners when we’ve lived here longer than many other natural-born Filipinos and our children go to the same school as the natural-born Filipinos. And we have our own outreach programs here!”
Much of these could go away in as little as four years’ time. The sports club as a whole is currently embroiled in a case with the Securities and Exchange Commission based on a complaint filed by a former president of the club. This former club president alleges that NSC has been offering unlisted securities. Furthermore, there is the matter of the land on which NSC sits.
The same president leased the land for a period of 15 years to NSC while extending the right of first refusal to the club in the event the owners decided to sell it. This is where the story diverges. NSC officials claim that after a 2008 board resolution to buy the club, the owner of the land instead offered it to a club member. At this point, the case has gone to court. But clearly, the legal hassles have affected the club.
Denison says the issues have not bothered Nomads’ UFL team but “It’s making everyone uncomfortable. It shouldn’t affect the first team but it will have a big impact on the football academy who are mainly young Pinoys. The first team is really struggling due to the lack of funding. The money that goes to the legal affairs is affecting the whole club.”
Freeston agrees: “That money should have been used on improving the facilities.”
Rumor has it that if bought out by a third party, the land will be converted to condominium unit.
“Many people do not see the value of the club,” interjected Whitwell. “When we hold an international tournament here in Manila, that’s about a thousand tourists who come in. That means they’ll be spending for hotels, public transportation, bars and what have you. I mean, really, whoever owns the club can do what they want with the club. But after nearly a century of helping sports grow in this country, it will be a sad day when NSC is run out. During the lean times, Nomads has helped keep the torch for football burning in this country.”
The club is also a huge boon to the youth of Merville and the nearby areas. With the attention of many youngsters on computers and the internet, the youth here are a throwback as they engage in the various sports the club has to offer.
Despite the lengthy legal battles that have been going on since 2008, the members of NSC has refused to give up the fight. Said an emphatic Whitwell, “Why not? This is after all, our home.”
Sports talk? You have no idea. The bar where hanging out means exchanging great views and opinions about sports teams.
Nomads' UFL Division One team 2011-12.
The pitch that has hosted sporting events galore.