Tribute:Bravery, raw power, dexterity and a clean heart defined Okombe
Dennis ‘Ironman’ Mwanja, one of the best lethal rugby attackers the country has ever produced once lamented how a one-eyed youthful man kept tackling him from nowhere but couldn’t get a glimpse of the tackler at all.
Mwanja made the statement in a post match analysis after his side KCB lost 8-3 in an enticing Kenya Cup encounter at the Nakuru Athletic Club back in 2012.
Unbeknown to Mwanja, the young tackler he was referring to was Michael Shitindo Okombe, the 27- year old well built man who would died last week in a gruesome murder.
Prior to his death, Okombe had lit the rugby scene, propelled by his powerful physique, dedication, love for the game, and unique style of play as a flanker.
In fact, at only 27, he had the world at his feet and the future looked bright.
Okombe announced his arrival on the rugby stage with the famous win against the bankers and from then on, Mwanja sentiments would be echoed by everyone who got to experience the wrath of the marauding flanker.
A man with deep passion for the game, Okombe started out at Western Bulls and would later move to rivals Kisumu RFC; this is after thrilling at the national school games where he lifted the XVs title with Musingu High School in 2007.
He would later join the high flying Top Fry Nakuru where he won back- to- back Kenya Cup titles during the 2012 and 2013 seasons.
A difficult upbringing fostered anger in Mike Okombe that could only be channeled through playing sports; and passionately he played the game, always making the most of the ball whenever it was safely carried in his strong palms.
His love for the game is perhaps exemplified in the national fifteens rugby team, where he played 17 test matches between 2013 and 2016, losing only six.
He was also part of the squad which narrowly failed to qualify for the 2015 rugby World Cup in England.
A player of Okombe’s size, 6ft 5in, had featured as back row for both Nakuru and the national team and though people focus on his physique, many forget that he possessed raw power, speed, balance and dexterity that made him devastating.
Before he met his untimely gruesome death, Okombe was on the verge of accepting an offer from the Kabras Sugar to play in the Kakamega based team.
He had said, “If it wasn’t for my injury I would be on the field combating for my position, but I’m planning on a comeback and it shall be lethal”. He only had 20 days left to his “lethal” return after the injury. This comeback was never to be.
Besides, he was a house hold name; for both club and country, winning the Kenya Cup twice and Enterprise Cup once.
There were tremendous wins for him at country level, an African title, a historic top 25 ranking, and a superb 10 clean won games just to show how important Okombe was to the national team.
With his infallible attributes, many would easily describe him as a beast on the pitch, but off it, he was a complete opposite, a gentle loving soul with an easy sense of humour and generosity.
Former Top Fry coach, Dominique Habimana, said Okombe was not made of “meat and bone”; he was made of “pure heart”.
“He remains one of the best players and best flankers to have graced our rugby scene, and a pure inspiration to people on and off the pitch looking up to him.
“His absence was greatly missed at both club and country, with the two teams struggling to effectively replace him at his position,”Habamina said.
Teammate Oscar Ouma described Okombe as “a true passionate rugby gentleman” who was a promising talent in the country.
“Okombe you were among the best back row players .You made history and your name will forever be etched in the list of Nakuru RFC and Kenya rugby super back rows with the likes of Lawi Buyachi and Brian Nyikuli. Sleep well,” Mike mourned.
His Simbas team mate Darwin Mukidza said, “He was very dependable, fierce and loyal. We were looking forward to his return but have been hit hard by the news of his demise. While it’s hard to comprehend, it fires us up to work hard and dedicate every performance to our fallen lion because Mike was the kind of person who gave his all whenever he was called upon.”
From the flowing messages of passionate, one thing is for certain, Okombe will be sorely missed, not only by his team mates at Top Fry Nakuru and the Simbas, but by the entire rugby fraternity. Rest in peace, warrior.
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