Tonga Sevens captain Atelea Okati has died after a car crash on 28th December.
Okati had previously played club rugby in Romania with CSM Olympia Bucharest where the team finished third in the 2015 Super CEC Bank Super League competition. He had previously played for Penrith Emus in Australia.
His former coach at the club, Danie de Villiers, issued a moving tribute to the player (via Agerpres):
“When death strikes a team, the pain is not in the game plan. Coaches like to believe that they can prepare for anything. Tricks, injury, extreme weather, know how to react in all circumstances. But there is no game plan for sudden death, the death of a teammate.
“There is no strategy, no video analysis to make this easier to accept. How do you find the words after such terrible news? You can tell a lot about the kind of person you are by how Atelea marked the life of us all.
“I had a special player / coach in you and I learned two big things from you. For me there were two Okatis: off the pitch, who spoke little, was rather relaxed, who took a tough decision when he chose to leave his Tonga family to play rugby in a far country so he can provide his loved ones a better standard of living. You embraced life, making everything count.
“The other side was one of the most talented rugby players that I had the honour to work with. On the pitch, your actions spoke louder than words. You gave us many special moments with incredible pace and sensational tries (I will not forget those three scores against CSA Steaua Bucuresti).
“The rugby family has lost a great brother. Our prayers and thoughts are with your family that you loved very much. I lost a colleague, a friend, a brother. Rest in peace, brother.”
I wanted to wait until it was confirmed. Am saddened to report the passing of Tongan Men’s 7’s Captain ‘Atelea Okati in a car accident. pic.twitter.com/7euG14Er3J
— #RugbyTonga (@RugbyTON_) December 29, 2016
Okati was 29 years old.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena