Kenyans pay tribute to Benjamin Ayimba, man who made rugby history
RUGBY By Robert Abong'o | May 22nd 2021
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.
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. pic.twitter.com/a4vMPQUzhN — Raila Odinga (@RailaOdinga) May 22, 2021
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 #RipAyimba pic.twitter.com/Ml2tQoLcX7 — The ODM Party (@TheODMparty) May 22, 2021
“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:
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
Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr also sent his tribute on Twitter:
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
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.
Benjamin Ayimba came through for us in our first ever successful Kitui 7s in 2018. He become a dependable partner and an integral part of the tournament.
As head coach, he led Kenya to its first ever World 7s Series title in 2016 in Singapore. Kenya trounced Fiji in the finals pic.twitter.com/3S9IXUpNWO — Charity Ngilu (@mamangilu) May 22, 2021
Here are other tributes to Benjamin Ayimba seen by Standard Sports on social media:
Former Kenya Rugby Sevens Coach Benjamin Ayimba is dead.
Ayimba has succumbed to Celebral Malaria.
He will be remembered for delivering Kenya's first ever trophy from HSBC Sevens (Singapore).
God's comfort to the family. pic.twitter.com/pi3Ybqmy9Y — MICHAEL OLLINGA (@michollinga) May 21, 2021
This one is hard. Rest in peace Benjamin Ayimba. National icon. Legend on and off the pitch. Top player, world class coach, great human being. It was an honour knowing you. Go well, Benja. pic.twitter.com/QluEjVoykx — Ben Kitili (@Ben_Kitili) May 22, 2021
As a player for the 7s and later its coach, you flew the nation’s pride - our flag, higher. May your Soul find peace, eternal Rest, Wuod [email protected] Benjamin Ayimba. Mos ahinya to Family, Loved Ones, Relatives, Friends and The Kenyan Nation. pic.twitter.com/KNne1T7rAR — Silas Chepkeres Jakakimba (@silasjakakimba) May 22, 2021
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.
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.
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