NAIROBI, Kenya- Tributes poured in following the devastating news of the demise of Kenya Simba XVs talented back row and two-time Kenya Cup winner, Michael Shitindo Okombe, who passed on Saturday night in Nakuru.
While confirming the death, Rongai OCPD, Japheth Kioko, said Police are investigating the circumstances that led to the demise of the 27 year-old.
The Top Fry Nakuru RFC star Okombe was capped 17 times by the Simbas since making his debut in 2013, establishing himself as an ever present in the national 15s side where he ended on the losing side on only six occasions.
He made his last last appearance in August 2016 when Simbas ran out 34-10 winners in a World Rugby Test clash against Hong Kong at the Rugby Football Union of East Africa Grounds in Nairobi.
“Mike was uncompromising on the field, but quiet, unassuming and loved off the field. His death is a big blow to the Kenyan rugby fraternity,” Kenya Rugby Union chairman, Richard Omwela mourned in a statement released by the governing body.
“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 its 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,” his shocked Simbas teammate and captain, Darwin Mukidza added.
In eulogising the fallen star, Team Manager, Wangila Simiyu, declared every game Simbas play in the Hong Kong Cup of Nations next week will be a tribute to Okombe who was not part of Head Coach Jerome Paarwaters travelling party.
“It is a very devastating loss, the squad is still coming to terms with the news of Mike’s death. He was an instrumental part of this team and will surely be missed.
“We had intended for him to join up with the team after our tour of Hong Kong but tragically this will not happen. Every game we play in Hong Kong will be in Mike’s memory,” Simiyu mourned.
“It is with a heavy heart that we announce the sudden passing on of one of our own, Mike Okombe today (Saturday).
“Kindly keep the family and the entire Nakuru rugby fraternity in your prayers during these trying times,” his club fondly known as Wanyore said in a statement.
Stunned Kenyans took to social media throughout Sunday to pay their respects with Okombe the top trending topic on micro blogging site Twitter throughout the day.
Okombe started his club career at Western Bulls before moving to Nakuru in 2011 where he soon became an integral part of the squad that won back-to-back Kenya Cup title in the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons.
Wanyore stole the hearts of the local rugby fraternity by breaking the stranglehold of Nairobi based teams with Okombe and Nakuru adding the 2014 Enterprise Cup to their trophy cabinet.
Okombe made an immediate impact on his Simbas debut in 2013, winning the Africa Cup and Elgon Cup double in a campaign Kenya last won the continental crown.
He played 16 consecutive Tests for Kenya from his debut 2013, a streak that was cut short when he missed last year’s tour of Zimbabwe and Namibia having lifted the Elgon Cup – the annual competition between Kenya and Uganda.
Okombe missed this year’s internationals through injury and the Simbas were keen to welcome him back to the fold before his untimely death.
His body is lying at a Nakuru mortuary as the family, KRU and Nakuru make burial plans.
-Material from Kenya Rugby Union used to compile this report
OKOMBE SIMBAS CAREER
June 2013v Uganda (H)16-17 L
June 2013 v Uganda (A) 19-13 W
July 2013 v Uganda (A)51-11 W
July 2013 v Zimbabwe (A) 29-17 W
November 2013 v Namibia (A) 35-55 L
November 2013 v Zimbabwe (A) 14-29 L
July 2014 v Namibia (A) 29-22 W
July 2014 v Zimbabwe (A) 10-28 L
June 2015 v Portugal (H)41-15 W
June 2015 v Spain (H)36-27 W
July 2015 v Tunisia (H) 44-15 W
July 2015 v Zimbabwe (A) 22-28 L
August 2015 v Namibia (A) 13-49 L
June 2016 v Brazil (A) 18-17 W
June 2016 v Uganda (A) 48-10 W
July 2016 v Uganda (H) 45-24 W
August 2016 v Hong Kong (H) 34-10 W