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From the brink of joining Gor Mahia to rugby, Quinto Ongo retraces his journey

QUINTO ONGO ATTEMPTS A CONVERSION IN A PAST ACTION AGAINST STRATHMORE. PHOTO COURTESY/IMPALA SARACENS

He recalls his childhood memories inside a football pitch back in his Kamine village in Oyugis. He was a dazzle in the game, sneaking past defenders and scoring goals to the roar of the crowd.

For Impala Saracens utility back Quinto Ongo, football was his first love. And as he mentions, he was brilliant in the game. He evidences the claims with how, at one time, he came close to joining Kenya football giants Gor Mahia.

“It was during a local football tournament in South Nyanza back in 2012, I was spotted by Gor Mahia scouts, if not officials, and after the tournament, they asked me, and three other players from the tournament, to go for trials in Nairobi,” he said.

Didn’t happen

“I was still in high school then and was just home for my midterm break. The trials didn’t happen for me as I had to go back to school. The other players went for the trials,” he added.

The unavoidable circumstances did not tar his ambitions. Instead, he upped his training.

His rugby journey started at Cardinal Otunga Mosocho high school in 2010, and later to Maseno School where he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE). It was from Maseno, that he later joined Impala Rugby Club.

“The decision (to join rugby) came after I was approached by the school rugby team back in Mosocho, for an incoming-outgoing match. They needed players for one of their outgoing match since they lacked numbers. I decided to give it try out because they believed that I was fast enough and could fit well into the 7s game as well as 15s on the wing. That’s how the journey began,” he said.

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Coming from a less physical game to a more physical game, Ongo had to brave up to the challenges and needs of rugby. His biggest challenge, he says, was the aggressive contact part of the game.

“It really took time before I adjusted to the collisions. It was not easy for me. My teammates helped by encouraging me to use my strength which was more of attack than defence but with time I adjusted,” he said.

“I really enjoyed my high school rugby, all I can say is that it really built a good foundation ahead of club rugby,” he added.

His blistering pace has seen him play as a winger since he joined rugby. According to him, he loves the position. It balances both his attacking and defending prowess perfectly.

Impala move

It was these qualities, according to him, that convinced the Impala Saracens coaches, who signed him up immediately after his final high school examination at Maseno School.

“I joined Impala immediately after my KCSE back in December 2012. Nick Abok, who by then was part of the Impala Technical bench, urged us to join Impala. Abok is also a Maseno ‘old boy’, and he used to come to coach us before high school championship games and it’s there that he asked us to join Impala,” he revealed.

It is at the Ngong Roadside that Ongo has risen to join the list of the best in the game in Kenyan rugby.

Since joining the side while still a young protege nearly a decade ago, Ongo has established himself as a key player for the Sarries, helping the side scoop the 2016 Impala Floodlit Tournament, and three Eric Shirley Shield titles.

This, according to Ongo, has come at the great help of some of his colleagues and coaches.

“The Impala Club has impacted my rugby life to the positive. Players like Duncan Ekasi, Vincent Mose, George Okowa, Nato Simiyu, Sammy Oliech, the late Richard Sidindi and all the coaches that I’ve been under at Impala have been of great importance in my rugby life. Special mention to the late Erick Situma too,” he said.

His best moments with the side is always after every win. Overcoming the hurdles of the game after an intense week of training to claim the points is his most celebrated moment at the club. His worst moments, as he shuns, was the club sad losing of Richard “Jadhapower” Sidindi and Erick Situma.

“Every win with Impala has been memorable. That is the main reason why we step on the field, to win. So when we claim victory and maximum points it’s always a good moment for me. The worst memory was losing (Richard) Sidindi and (Erick) Situma. Those two were special for the Sarries,” he pointed.

Certified fitness coach

Off-field, Ongo is a certified fitness coach and trainer. His clients includes some famous names in the world of Kenyan sports. A notable mention is former Gor Mahia and current Kenya Police player Clifton Miheso, who has also featured for the national team, and who Ongo says is a close friend.

“Being a fitness coach is something I do with passion and I give my clients the best I can. To me every client I coach or train is notable. Apart from that, I am also the football coach at Two Rivers Soccer Academy, Nairobi,” he said.

It may seem like a lot up his plate, balancing the maneuver between being a rugby player, a fitness coach, a soccer coach and a student, but Ongo has come up with a sound plan that helps him keep in balance.

“It just comes down to correct planning. The key thing is to identify your priorities and devise a plan that accommodates them. For me, In whatever I do, I always have a plan which goes hand in hand with my priorities basically, when, where, what and how,” he said.

For Ongo as he treks back his journey, he believes even better days and moments are yet to come. He equates his rugby journey to his international idols, New Zealand and Blues winger Rieko Ionae, and England and Saracens flyhalf Owen Farrell.

Ongo says he has no regrets choosing rugby over football despite his football teammates eg Boniface Omondi having made their name in the local and having bagged several league titles with Gor Mahia FC.

“I’ve never had any regrets, and if I had, then I’d be crippling myself. It means I’d be regretting the life I’m living now, which is not the case. I’ve always learned to appreciate God’s purpose in my life and that’s why I believe it was His will.”

For his fans and upcoming players, Ongo says, “For my fans, I’m very grateful and humbled by your support,it goes a long way. To the young players, all I can tell them is, don’t limit yourself on what you can do, whatever you do, do it to the best of your abilities and capabilities and above all, there’s only one who makes all this possible,THE LORD OUR GOD.”

As he concludes, his parting shot is “Have a purpose and a drive-in whatever you do and always be grateful and humble before God, I’ve always stepped onto the pitch for the things and those that I have at heart because they deserve. You can tell that from the writings that I usually have on our wrists.”

FACTFILE:
Name: Quinto Ongo
Club: Impala Saracens
Weight: 75 kgs
Playing positions: Right wing, fullback, left-wing
Achievements and accolades: 3 times ESS winner, Man of the match ESS final 2016, Impala Floodlit Winner 2016, Most Promising player Floodies 2016, Top Point Scorer Floodies 2016

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