Benjamin Ayimba: Kenya’s Greatest Rugby Coach

Benjamin Ayimba: Kenya’s Greatest Rugby Coach

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.

Brief History

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.

The rugby legend was appointed Kenya Sevens captain in 2000. During his time as captain, Kenya headed to two Rugby World Cups; Argentina in 2001 and Hong Kong in 2005.

He was also part of the Kenya Sevens team that participated in the Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England.

Coaching Prowess

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.

In 2009, Ayimba led the Sevens team Shujaa to their first ever Main Cup Finals at the Rugby World Cup. Shujaa would later be edged out 7-26 by South Africa’s Springboks.

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.

Kenya players celebrating after they won the HSBC Singapore Sevens title on April 17, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

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.”

Family

Ayimba is survived by his 6 sons, 4 of whom he had with his first wife Frabrica Awuor.

Photo: Courtesy

He sired his youngest 2 with actress Gloria Nyaboke Moraa.

Source : IG Nyaboke Moraa

His eldest son Brian plays for Homeboyz Rugby and was an actor in Jastorina, which aired on Citizen TV.

Illness

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.

Condolences Messages

Tributes to the legend came in with all agreeing that he was truly a legend.

At C.O.K we celebrate the life of a true legend who steered Kenya Rugby to new heights.

RIP Benjamin Ayimba.

Nick Tembo
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