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When relations gone sour leave sportsmen empty-handed, almost

SPORTS By Robert Abong'o | November 8th 2021 | 6 min read

The late Agnes Tirop, former 500m World bronze medalist who was found dead on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. [Internet]

It’s not long ago that I heard someone say in a song “Marriage is like deciding to jump off of your planet, across to another planet, you’re never ready for it because it’s new…”.

Come to think about it, the idea of leaving the life you know and moving into someone else’s is a tough one. When the realities of marriage start to take shape, parties involved, if unsatisfied, find reasons to separate. Most times, both parties come to a mutual agreement if both partners have already made up their minds. However, some separations are quite a mess.

In this demanding and social media-led society, it’s fair to say many marriages often end up with acrimonious divorces.

In Kenya, the divorce system is fault-based. A person seeking divorce is required by law to prove a matrimonial offence on the part of the other spouse, unlike in other countries where a ‘no-fault system’ is used (divorce by consent).

It is no different if you are a top athlete. Popular sportsmen around the world earning outrageous amounts of money have gone through messy divorces, most times losing equally large amounts in alimony.

Sometimes the cash becomes the root of all problems in the marriage, which, in some cases, turns out fatal.

It is important to note a good percentage of couples rarely sign pre-nuptial agreements, leading to custody problems after divorce.

Standard Sports samples cases of athletes who have experienced marital problems that led to messy divorces, and sometimes even death.

Agnes Tirop (Athlete)

Agnes Tirop quenches her thirst after winning the 10,000KM women final during Day Two of the National Athletics Championships 2019 at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on August 21, 2019. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

A recent case of a marriage turned fatal is the story of one Agnes Tirop, the slain Kenyan athlete who represented Kenya in the 5,000m women's race at the Tokyo Olympics.

Tirop was on Wednesday, October 13, found dead in her house in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet with stab wounds in the abdomen. An autopsy later revealed she succumbed to a stab wound on the neck and was hit by a blunt object on the head. 

The prime suspect in her killing, her husband Ibrahim Rotich is said to have confessed to killing her, hours after a report had been filed following her disappearance on the evening of Tuesday, October 12.

According to Keiyo North Police Commander Tom Makori, Tirop's husband called his parents informing them he had committed the crime while seeking God's forgiveness. 

Multiple reports indicate Tirop had marital problems with her husband, with her killing casting a shadow on the safety of Kenya’s female athletes in their marriages and relationships.

Tendai Ndoro (Footballer)

Ex-Zimbabwe international footballer Tendai Ndoro is perhaps the latest case of a footballer whose marriage has fallen apart.

Zimbabwe's forward Tendai Ndoro (L) reacts as he scores past Tunisia's goalkeeper Rami Jeridi (C) and Tunisia's defender Ali Maaloul (R) during the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations group A football match between Zimbabwe and Tunisia at the Stade de l'Amitie Sino-Gabonaise in Libreville on January 23, 2017. [AFP, Gabrial Bouys]

Last week Zimbabwean publication B-Metro reported the former Orlando Pirates star had lost all his assets and was kicked out of his home by his South African wife after a divorce.

Ndoro and his wife Thando Maseko are said to have lived together at Kyalami Estates in a luxurious home in Johannesburg. The estate comprises recreational parks, outdoor gyms, a football field, a dam, tennis, squash, basketball and netball courts including 24-hour controlled access.

“It appears Ndoro’s property in South Africa is not registered in his name so when things were not going well with his wife, he was kicked out of the Kyalami Estate home. The biggest mistake he made was not registering the house and cars in his name and that will be his downfall,” read part of the story.

Maseko, however, fired back at allegations, saying she broke up with the star in 2018 after a domestic violence charge, and that he volunteered to leave.

“I never kicked Tendai out. The police said that both of us can’t stay in the same house since the kids are still on. One of us should leave. He said he will go,” said Maseko.

Ndoro is currently in Zimbabwe, training with Northern Region Division One side Simba Bhora.

Emmanuel Eboue (Footballer)

Another sad case of divorce was that which befell former Arsenal and Cote d’ Ivoire defender Emmanuel Eboue. In 2017, Eboue divorced his wife Aurelier, who also seized full custody of their three children along with his mansion, cars and their house London.

Former Arsenal right-back Emmanuel Eboue. [Reuters]

 “I can’t afford the money to continue to have any lawyer or barrister. I am in the house but I am scared. Because I don’t know what time the police will come. Sometimes I switch off the lights because I don’t want people to know that I am inside. I put everything behind the door. My own house. I suffered to buy my house but I am now scared,” Eboue told the Mirror. 

This was a year after he was banned for 12 months by FIFA for not being able to pay his agent while still playing for Sunderland. He was left homeless and poor, contemplating suicide and only relying on friends for a place to sleep. 

Michael Jordan (Basketball star)

Perhaps one of basketball’s global stars, Michael Jordan became the centre of attention in 2002 after his wife, Juanita Vanoy filed for divorce. The pair got married in 1989, and after 22 years, three children and claims of infidelity, they split, with Juanita being awarded 168 million dollars.

Juanita also got custody of their three kids and a big mansion. This was considered among the most expensive sports divorces of all time.

Tiger Woods (Golfer)

Considered a public figure and a role model, Tiger Woods' fall from Grace started in 2009 after allegations he was unfaithful to his wife, Elin Nordegren, a Swedish model. A year later, the golfer confirmed the allegations were true, prompting more women to come out and reveal they had affairs with the golfer.

Nordegren filed for divorce and was rewarded a reported Sh100 million dollars. Woods also saw several sponsors pull back, and has now become more of an average performer on the golf course.

Mike Tyson (Boxing)

Former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson not only had one divorce settlement in court, but two. Iron ‘Mike’ got married to actress Robin Givens in 1988 but shockingly divorced on Valentine’s Day a year later. 

Givens accused Tyson of abuse, with the boxer also admitting the union wasn’t smooth sailing. Having not signed a prenuptial agreement, Givens sought divorce and got it, walking away with a reported 10 million dollars. 

Tyson married Monica Turner in 1997 and divorced again five years later after allegations the boxer "committed adultery during the marriage”, a court was told. Tyson agreed to pay Monica 6.5 million dollars, as well as hand over his 61-room Connecticut mansion.

Lance Armstrong (Cycling)

Having survived testicular cancer, a myriad of doping allegations and a ban, ex-professional cyclist Lance Armstrong got married to Kristin Richard in 1998. At the time, Armstrong had won the Tour de France multiple times. They had three kids together.

It is reported Kristin felt betrayed by the cyclist after he started dating another woman, country musician Sheryl Crow while still married to her. 

In 2003, news broke the couple had come to a divorce agreement, with Kristin walking away with a reported 14 million dollars. ?

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