Tears flow at requiem mass of rugby star Tony Opondo
Ken Njeru at Citam Church
Tears flowed. Loved ones walked shoulder to shoulder as friends and the rugby fraternity gathered on Wednesday at the Christ Is The Answer Ministries (Citam) church along Valley Road in Nairobi for a requiem mass of rugby star Tony Onyango Opondo.
Present at the service were rugby’s top brass including former national sevens team head coach Paul ‘Pau’ Murunga, KCB coach Curtis Olago, his assistant Denis Mwanja, former Shujaa player Biko Adema among others.
A majority of the players were Onyango’s team mates at one point or the other.
And emotional tributes came from the family including his wife Maria Opondo, parents and representatives of various clubs that he played for during his career.
His wife Maria Opondo described Tony as a loving husband who fulfilled his promises and a soft-spoken guy.
“I met Tony at Strathmore University and he was so soft spoken, he had a passion for rugby and he always told me he wanted to play for Kenya,” said Maria.
“I have had a privilege to travel with him all over the world to support him play,” she added. “As a lover we agreed to disagree and he fulfilled his promises.”
Mrs Opondo also took her time on the podium to pass gratitude to those who stayed close to her during the difficult time.
“I would like to thank all those who have supported us during this difficult time, thanks to the rugby fraternity for staying close with me and for your support, life will never be the same without you Tony and I promise before God that I will take good care of our son,” she said as she fought off tears, the gathering hanging onto every word she uttered.
His parents Mr and Mrs Opondo gave their tributes describing Onyango as a hardworking, respectful and humble son.
“I had just landed in Mombasa when the sad news of losing my son reached me and I had to come back to Nairobi just to find my son lying down helpless, he was just 28 years and 35 days old and he was at the peak of his career.
“Losing my son has left me half broken, crying every day has been my norm. RIP son,” said his mother Consolata Opondo.
On his part, his father Thomas Opondo said.“Tony left without saying goodbye – not sick but just within minutes he was gone. He was always hard working, top five in class and went on to become Maseno School captain and a rugby captain,” he said of his son who’s survived by one boy.
“He was recruited to play for Strathmore University and got full scholarship and later joined Kenya Sevens and travelled all over the world. His loss has left a big gap in his small family and it hurts me instead of Tony burying me I’m the one burying him. RIP son.”
Opondo will be laid to rest this Friday in Awendo.
The many rugby clubs he played for also gave their tributes.
“I played together with him at high school and at Impala(club). I was very privileged to play with him. Tony was a humble and hard-working guy; it’s a big loss to the rugby fraternity,” Impala Saracens’ Duncan Ikasi said.
“It’s really painful because we started playing with him at Strathmore and while we were at Maseno he was a leader and protected his fellow young rugby players from being bullied . He was jovial and we wish he could have stayed more with us,” Strathmore Leo’s Humphrey Owuor eulogized.
“It’s a tough time and painful for the Homeboyz fraternity. We first played with him at the national circuit in 2017 and won. Tony was very hard-working and friendly; we will really miss him,” Homeboyz Michael Wanjala noted.
“Everybody that has said Tony was hard working has not lied because after joining KCB in 2018-2019 he helped us win the Kenya Cup so KCB has lost a great player and friend,”mourned KCB’s Brian Nyikuli. “At KRU Tony was a team mate and we played for Kenya Under 19 and got call ups in the Shujaa and Simba squad. It’s a big loss to the rugby fraternity and we will continue to share great memories we had with him,” Journalist and KRU media officer Michael Kwambo said.
“We lost a warrior. He helped us win Kenya Cup and Floodies. He was also very hard working and a team player,” KCB’s team manager Philip Wamae equipped.
Onyango played for the Kenya national team across all representative levels, earning his first Simba call up under Michael ‘Tank’ Otieno during the Elgon Cup against Uganda in April 2012 and became a regular under Jerome Paarwater, playing for the Simbas upto 2018 at the Rugby World Cup Repechage tournament in Marseille, France.
He was also in the Kenya Sevens team during the 2014/15 World Series season under Paul Treu.
An alumnus of Maseno School, Tony first played for Impala Saracens before joining Strathmore Leos and was part of the Leos squad that reached the 2012/13 Kenya Cup Final
He moved to Homeboyz where he won the 2016 National Sevens Circuit before moving to KCB where he was part of the squad that beat Kabras 23-15 in last season’s Kenya Cup final in Kakamega.