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Kenyans pay tribute to Benjamin Ayimba, man who made rugby history

RUGBY By Robert Abong'o | May 22nd 2021
Kenya Sevens coach Ben Ayimba after the team arrived in Kenya after winning the World Series title in 2016 [Beverlyne Musili, Standard]

Kenyans have taken to social media to pay tribute to former Kenya Sevens player and head coach Benjamin Ayimba, who died on Friday, May 21.

Ayimba had been battling cerebral malaria which kept him out of the limelight from the start of the year.

On May 9, it was revealed Ayimba was critically ill and hospitalised at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) Private Wing, as the family urged Government and Kenyans to continue with contributions to offset the medical bill.

ODM leader Raila Odinga and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja were among the leaders who paid Ayimba a visit while in hospital.

Raila, through his Twitter, paid his condolences to the fallen rugby great. “We have lost a great patriot in Benjamin Ayimba. Prior to taking up coaching, he had an illustrious career as a Rugby 15s and 7s international. As coach he led Kenya to their first World Sevens Series title when they beat Fiji at the Singapore Sevens in 2016,” Raila said.

Sakaja posted pictures of Ayimba on his social media with the caption “Lala Salama Benja”

The ODM party also paid tribute to the World Series title-winning coach.

“On the pitch, you did not try, you scored many TRIES. On the touch line, you inspired many with your coaching skills & ensured we excelled out there. Off-pitch, you nurtured many talents. Generally, you helped grow rugby in Kenya. We shall miss you Benjamin Ayimba,” ODM wrote.

Siaya Senator James Orengo described Ayimba as a “special part of Rugby to Kenya” as he paid his condolences on Twitter:

Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr also sent his tribute on Twitter:

Party leader for National Rainbow Coalition Charity Ngilu also sent her tribute, recalling how Ayimba became a dependable partner when they held the Kitui Sevens tournament in 2018. 

Here are other tributes to Benjamin Ayimba seen by Standard Sports on social media:

History

Kenya Sevens team celebrate with the trophy after defeating Fiji in the cup final at the Singapore Sevens rugby tournament on April 17, 2016. [AFP, Roslan Rahman]

Ayimba completed his studies at Maseno School in 1994 and joined Impala Saracens the year after. He captained Impala to two championships, the Kenya Cup in 2000 and the Enterprise Cup in 2001.

He also steered Impala to three National Sevens Circuit titles in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Ayimba also played for Nondescripts in 2002 before moving to and Cornish Pirates in England between 2003 and 2005.

He was part of the Kenya Sevens squad that featured in the 2001 and 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens tournaments in Argentina and Hong Kong respectively.

He also played for Kenya at the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games.

Coaching:

After leaving his brief role as Kenya 15's coach, Ayimba coached the Sevens team between 2006 and 2011, where they secured their first-ever World Series final in 2009 in Adelaide, Australia. In the same year, he led Shujaa to its maiden Rugby World Cup Sevens semi-final in Dubai.

His second stint as Kenya Sevens head coach was between 2015-16, where he coached the team to its first-ever appearance at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In 2016, Ayimba and the team made history when they won the World Series title after Kenya beat Fiji 30-7 in the 2016 Singapore Sevens final.

Locally, he had coaching stints at Kenya Harlequins (Assistant coach), Mean Machine and Homeboyz.

#RIPAyimba

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Former Kenya Sevens coach Benjamin Ayimba dead
Former Kenya Sevens head coach Benjamin Ayimba is dead.
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