Karl Decena, InterAKTV
Long before football was into the national consciousness of Filipino fans, Nomads FC has been active in the local scene. Boasting of a 99-year tradition, it is one of the oldest clubs that remains in action.
But the club, formed by expatriates living in the Philippines, is wary of its future in the United Football League after the country’s top football competition implemented a rule limiting the number of foreign players per club.
In the new foreign player rule, five imports will be allowed on the pitch for each club during a match. They can be joined by two more foreigners, as long as those have been permanent residents of the Philippines for at least five years.
As a team with only a few Filipinos in the mix, Nomads is expected to struggle.
“It is our intention to drop down to Division Two,” said Jeff Blake, goalkeeper for Nomads FC and a member of the team management. “For us to drop down, it’s much better for us.”
Blake said that the implementation of the new rule caught them off guard.
“I feel that it is being done too soon, three months notice,” said Blake, an American national. “Not a lot of teams are able to do that financially — and we can’t.”
A special exemption from the rule is expected to be given to Nomads given its contributions to the league’s growth. Founded in 1914, the club is also one of the 16 founding members of the UFL.
“This is a club that has been in the UFL from the very start. They have supported UFL through thick and thin and obviously that is something valuable to us,” UFL general manager Cesar de Larrazabal said.
However, de Larrazabal admitted that the UFL also wants to comply with international standards to be competitive against its counterparts abroad, and limiting foreigners is the first step toward that.
“This is something that we’ve discussed a couple of years already. We need to start aligning with AFC (Asian Football Confederation). So we’re talking about capping foreign players and this is the start of it,” he said.
De Larrazabal said that Nomads will be given two years to comply with the foreign player rule — an exemption only given to founding members playing in the second division.
“Recognizing that, we are giving the founding members a two-year allowance to be able to comply with the foreign rules. That can only be given to teams in the second division, founding members (who are) in the second division,” he said.
But for Nomads player Randy Musters, two years are not enough for them to abide with the rule.
“At the moment, we’ll try to be able to have a lot of Filipinos and comply with the rules,” he said. “But to be honest, in the next two years, not a lot of Filipino players will come in. It’s gonna be hard.”
Despite concerns about its UFL future, Nomads vowed that it will still be competitive for the next season. But Musters admitted that their prospects remain bleak.
“Nothing is really clear to be honest,” he said.
De Larrazabal assured that whatever the final decision Nomads and the UFL agree upon, it would be for the benefit of both parties — and football’s development in general.
“What we’re going to come up with will recognize the provenance of Nomads and, at the same time, ensure that our roadmap, our dream of elevating Philippine football in our own little way, is realized,” he said.