- Jonathan Mo is surrounded by the Pacific Islanders as they ask God to protect him during his surgery
- Mo’s dreams of a professional rugby career were dashed but now he lives it vicariously through the players
Jonathan Mo could not believe it when the Tongan sevens liaison officer reached out to him and invited him to training. They had heard Mo was facing life-threatening heart surgery with just a 40 per cent survival rate via a SCMP article, and wanted to pray for him.
“They didn’t even know me but they were doing all these things for me,” Mo said. “They didn’t have to, but they did and that shows their character.”
The players and Mo huddled together and they sang. Then, in an emotional moment, they knelt around Mo, placed their hands on him and prayed, asking God to keep him safe during the surgery.
“I nearly cried. I was close to tears,” he said.
Watch: Tonga sevens sing and pray for Mo
Mo had his own ambitions to become a professional rugby player. He was close to realising it when he finished a three-month trial with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, but a week later, at the age of 19, he collapsed.
Mo, 23, was told only a few months ago he would need the risky surgery. He has been sanguine and bold in his attitude since, living every day like it’s his last.
“It was a really fresh experience [being with the Tonga team]. For me especially, seeing these boys have got their dream and I got my rugby dream destroyed. But I got a chance to step on the pitch, my home pitch,” Mo said. “I can’t explain the feeling.”
Tonga lost to Hong Kong in the final pool game of the qualifiers. Mo is a proud Hongkonger but the Tongans’ kindness split his loyalties. He said he was supporting Tonga 60 per cent and Hong Kong 40 per cent.
“To do it to a stranger, they never knew me, they never met me, but they do it all just to make me feel like pushing on, not giving in. It’s incredible.”