On Friday, 21st May 2021 Kenyan sporting fraternity and the nation at large received with shock the news of the death of a rugby legend. Benjamin Ayimba passed on at the age of 44, having made a great mark on Kenyan Rugby.
In this article we give more details about Benjamin Ayimba’s life and rise to the top of the game.
Benjamin Ayimba Otieno was born on 27th August 1976.
He attended Olympic Primary School in Nairobi where his interest in sports started to show. Ayimba later joined Maseno School where he sat for his KCSE and was among the top performing students in Kisumu County.
The rugby legend was first introduced to Rugby in Form 3 by his coach Milton Nyangaga.
Rise of The Legend
After high school, he joined Impala RFC in 1995. In 1999 he became Captain of the club till 2001.
During his time as captain, Impala won several titles, including the Kenya Cup in 2000, Enterprise Cup in 2001 and Floodlit tournaments. He also saw the club win the National Sevens Circuit title in all 3 years that he was Captain.
Ayimba joined Nondescripts RFC in 2002 where he played for 3 seasons.
He was also part of the Kenya Sevens team that participated in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England.
Ayimba would later be appointed Kenya Sevens coach in 2006 at 30 years old, the youngest IRB 7s Series coach at the time. This is where his star would shine the most.
He is hailed for having scouted and introduced some of the most renowned rugby players to international level. These include Samuel Oliech, Frank Wanyama, Donald Aluoch and Robert Aringo, who debuted in the 2015/2016 World Series Season.
In 2016, he led Shujaa in winning the Singapore Sevens, solidifying his title as Kenya’s most successful sevens coach.
Ayimba was also part of the team that brought forward tournaments such as the Masaku 7s, Meru 7s and Kitui 7s.
The legend’s efforts in nurturing the game wouldn’t go unnoticed by the state. In 2010, he was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) by former President Mwai Kibaki.
Before his death, the rugby maestro had plans of starting a youth rugby academy in Western Kenya. This was revealed by Kenya Lionesses head coach Felix Oloo.
“That was his aspiration and ambition soon after he retired from the national duties and we were to partner together in the whole process of having the matter come to fruition.”
Ayimba is arguably Kenya’s most successful 7s Rugby coach. This is a fact that even his former high school teacher and coach Mr. Nyangaga agreed while speaking to a local daily.
“I’m the one who introduced Benjamin to rugby. He was not a good player, but as a coach he did much better than me. It is unfortunate to hear of his demise. We have lost a great man.”
Ayimba is survived by his 6 sons, 4 of whom he had with his first wife Frabrica Awuor.
He sired his youngest 2 with actress Gloria Nyaboke Moraa.
His eldest son Brian plays for Homeboyz Rugby and was an actor in Jastorina, which aired on Citizen TV.
In January 2021, Benjamin Ayimba fell ill and would be in and out of hospital. He would later be admitted at the Avenue Hospital where he was diagnosed with cerebral malaria. Ayimba was later transferred to the Kenyatta National Hospital where he was admitted at the facility’s High Dependency Unit.
The illness took a toll on his family’s finances and this led to them launching a financial appeal in April 2021. President Uhuru Kenyatta and Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga are among those who heeded to the call, with each contributing Ksh. 1 Million.
The funds drive raised a total of Ksh. 5.5 Million after well-wishers also chipped in via an M-pesa paybill number.
His death was confirmed by the family spokesperson Oscar Osir, while expressing his gratitude for the time the support the family received.
“Benjamin succumbed to the multiple complications he was being treated for over the past couple of months.”
Ayimba breathed his last on Friday, 21st March 2021.
Tributes to the legend came in with all agreeing that he was truly a legend.
This is hard. Rest in power Benja. ? Benjamin Ayimba has died at the Kenya Hospital after a battle with celebral Malaria ? pic.twitter.com/Lr8xp8S4li
— Carol Radull (@CarolRadull) May 21, 2021
“As a nation, we will forever be grateful for his great contribution to Kenya’s sports especially for the many accolades he earned the country over the years," ~President Uhuru Kenyatta
Read more: https://t.co/V0Gv9RNUNj
— State House Kenya (@StateHouseKenya) May 22, 2021
Benjamin Ayimba will be remembered for his service to the nation as a player and coach Of the 7s team . Rest In Peace bro . Our condolences to family, friends and the rugby fraternity
— Sen Mutula KilonzoJR (@SenMutula) May 21, 2021
Benjamin Ayimba was an incredibly special part of rugby in Kenya, he will forever be remembered for his outstanding pace and skill, his strength as a player and coach, and his kind and genuine nature both on and off the field. May his soul rest in peace. pic.twitter.com/2mIAP4Pppz
— James Orengo (@orengo_james) May 22, 2021
RIP Benjamin Ayimba. Very sad to hear of Benja’s passing. One of Kenya’s most decorated coaches – their amazing 2015 Singapore Cup win will always be remembered by 7s fans around the world. He was a friend and a rival and I’m going to miss him and his smile. Rest Easy Benja. ??
— Ben Ryan (@benjaminryan) May 23, 2021
Could not believe when Kali Nasoko told me today a champion of the 7s game has passed on.A gentlemen of the game, mastermind of Kenya’s great win against ??in Singapore 2016 – Kenya rugby has lost a great man. Jumbo Jumbo – RIP brother.From us @fijirugby7s. ❤️? to the family. pic.twitter.com/a4igTvLSCf
— Naca Cawanibuka (@cawnac_naca) May 22, 2021
"This is why we just love Sevens!"
— World Rugby Sevens (@WorldRugby7s) May 23, 2021
At C.O.K we celebrate the life of a true legend who steered Kenya Rugby to new heights.
RIP Benjamin Ayimba.
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