KITCHENER — The decision to leave war-torn Sudan and come to Canada was a deliberate move to ensure a better life.
Lam Diing, 23, arrived as a child, attended Sunnyside Public School and graduated from Eastwood Collegiate with his eye on the big prize — becoming a Warrior and playing for the University of Waterloo football team.
“He worked so hard to get into Waterloo and he worked so hard to stay in,” said Nial Both, 36, who also hails from Sudan, and became Diing’s friend and mentor.
“He didn’t have an easy ride, he had his ups and downs in school, but he kept smiling and he kept grinding,” said Both, who works as a child and youth worker in Stratford.
“It wasn’t about the football, it was about the opportunity he had to get an education from a prestigious institution like Waterloo. The opportunity was never going to be available to him in South Sudan.”
But all his dreams were shattered Saturday night.
Diing was at a get-together at a house in the Stanley Park area in Kitchener when police were called minutes after midnight for a fight outside the house.
The altercation ended with Diing bleeding from a stab wound. He died later in hospital.
Nicholas Salim Ndayisenga, 22, faces a charge of second-degree murder in connection to Diing’s death.
Waterloo Regional Police say the men knew each other.
In a brief court appearance Monday afternoon, Ndayisenga frequently bowed his head as plans for his next court appearance were made.
With his hair in dreadlocks and wearing a short-sleeve shirt, Ndayisenga gestured to his parents and at one point was given a facial tissue.
“I don’t know what I can really say other than it’s an absolute tragedy,” his defence lawyer, Brennan Smart, said outside the courtroom. “As events unfold and as the story unfolds, people will appreciate what a tragic situation this is.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay funeral costs for Diing.
As of Monday afternoon, more than $14,000 had been raised to pay, surpassing the $8,000 goal.
Friends described Diing, a third-year arts student, as a committed team player who knew that consistent hard work would lead to success.
“He worked so hard on his academics to get into Waterloo and that spoke to what kind of person he was. I wanted him to succeed just as bad as I want to succeed,” said Brandon Eaket, who coached Diing at Eastwood and helped him get recruited to Waterloo.
Diing, a wide receiver, had seven catches for 89 yards and a touchdown last season and was invited to the CFL’s Ontario regional combine in March.
“Lam was a light-spirited kind of guy, always brought a smile to everyone’s face, eager to please, eager to help. The kind of guy everyone wanted to be around,” said Eaket, 26, who played football at Cameron Heights and Waterloo.
On social media, many expressed their condolences and sadness at Diing’s death.
CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie tweeted: “The sudden loss of one so young is a tragedy for his community, teammates and most of all, his family & friends.”
Diing, who was born in Khartoum, Sudan, came to Canada to escape the civil unrest and violence in his native homeland.
Those who played football with him or watched him play said he played with gusto, feeling lucky that he was doing what he loved.
“Lam was a tremendous student athlete who made those around him better with his work ethic and glowing smile,” said Chris Bertoia, Waterloo’s head coach.
“The Waterloo football family expresses our deepest sympathies to those who knew Lam, who will be forever missed on and off the field.”
Grief counsellors were on campus Monday to speak to players on the Warriors team.
“The connection Lam had to many of his fellow student-athletes and coaches is why this is devastating to so many of us,” said Roly Webster, director of athletics and recreation at UW.
Diing’s death is Waterloo Region’s first homicide in 2018.
Police continue to canvass the Stanley Park neighbourhood and Kenora Drive to speak to residents who may have seen the altercation.
Police do not anticipate any further arrests.
Ndayisenga returns to court Monday.
– Waterloo Region Record