For he is a jolly good fellow, for he is a jolly good fellow…for he is a jolly good feeellooow, which nobody can deny!
It is now over a week since news of Tony’s passing hit us like a canon ball, right in the gut! I still find it hard to believe that I am penning down a tribute to Tony ‘Blada’ Onyango.
I first met Tony sometime in 2012 or there about, when he was just making the move from Impala to Strathmore. A slim, deceptively fast back, solid under the high ball, had great hands and played with a certain courage way beyond his size, coupled with that unmistakable wide smile.
Tony had this unique ability to sneak past tackles, almost by stretching himself out, which earned him the nick name ‘blada.’ A skill that he perfected as the years went on, tormenting defences everywhere he went, eventually earning him spots in both the Kenya Simbas and Shujaa sides from 2012.
He was part of that Strathmore Leos side that went all the way to the Kenya Cup final in 2014, eventually moving to Homeboyz where he won the sevens series in 2016, and finally moving to KCB, where he won the Kenya Cup and sevens series title last year.
For all his prowess on the field, Tony was an even better bloke off it. A true gentleman, who personified the very ethos of our game; Integrity, Discipline, Commitment, Respect and Teamwork.
I cannot remember on any one occasion when you could question Tony’s integrity and commitment in whatever he did whether on the pitch or off it. He was a team player, a reliable mate, anyone who came across him can testify to that, he always wanted the best of everyone.
You could tell that Tony enjoyed playing this sport, from that wide smile he wore every time he had the ball, to his post match chats, whether he won or lost. He was always among the last players to leave the pitch after a game, as he dissected the game with team mates and fans.
I remember catching up with him after he won his first Kenya Cup with KCB at the Kakamega show ground, seated on the pitch after the final whistle, “Ndio hii Poghie, Ndio hii nimeshinda, finally…Ndio hii!!”
“Eeh lakini kuna mahali kidogo watukamate…” He laughed and went on to happily break down plays, in a way that made me think that I had been watching and commentating a different game all together. That was Tony.
I last saw Tony on Saturday 29th February, after KCB’s encounter with Homeboyz, as I was heading to the club house. “Ah mzito, nijea..siku hizi umetuship, kuja kwanza tuchapiane.” A familiar voice shouted, I looked back and it was Tony.
We went on about chatting about life and he told me how he and some friends had started an events company and was looking for advice on how to look for sponsorship and partnerships. I promised him that we’d chat in the coming week, which we did up until Tuesday evening before he passed on.
Tony was a really great story teller, he could go on and on, painting vivid pictures of any situation he was trying to explain. His tour stories were real gems. On that fateful Tuesday evening, he visited the KCB Sports Club Ruaraka, where he chatted with his team mates well into the night, as if to say goodbye.
Above all else Tony was a true family man, his love and commitment to Maria and Shane was clear for all to see, he never passed up an opportunity to boast about the two.
We have lost a rugby gentleman, a true friend, a father, a loving husband, a real jolly good fellow.
Lay down, my dear brother, lay down and take your rest.
Fare thee well Tony!