Former Kenya Rugby Sevens coach, the late Benjamin Ayimba, was yesterday eulogised as a disciplinarian par excellence.
Humphrey Kayange, a former skipper of the team, said Ayimba never took ‘No’ for an answer whenever the team was faced with the hardest of challenges in a match.
“I remember first meeting him (Ayimba) in 2006 and coincidentally we were both in Team Kenya that was gearing up for the Dubai Sevens.
Then, I was younger than him and there was this trademark trait in him that was team leadership,’’ Kayange said.
He added: “Then as fate would have it, I did not perform well in the Dubai series and the bullish Ayimba flatly told me in the face that I had disappointed and needed to improve if I was to get far in the sport.”
“It was during that time when I was a skinny young man just learning the ropes of rugby before adding mass to aptly fit into the game I adored, but what I can tell you that Ayimba was a stickler of discipline,” he said.
Kayange said Ayimba kept on pushing him: “Hey, young man, you have a huge potential in rugby and you can certainly do better. Keep on working hard and you can go places, boy, I tell you.”
And Voila!, after Kayange’s pep talk by Ayimba, who later nominated him as the national sevens team vice-captain, the former ruled the roost in subsequent series in Hong Kong to the extent in which several foreign clubs were drooling over his services.
“I think he saw something unique in me and he adopted an attribute that seemed to suggest that he is his brother’s keeper. It was least surprising that he oversaw my appointment as the national team vice-captain.
What a wonderful working relationship with my senior !,” exclaimed Kayange.
During an emotional requiem mass held for the late Ayimba at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Mariakani-South “B”, Nairobi, yesterday, the presiding Father Jose Binu, said heroes like Ayimba never die but sleep in internal life.
The souls of the upright are in the hands of God, and no torment can touch them. To the unenlightened, they appeared to die, their departure was regarded as disaster.
Their leaving us is like annihilation; but they are at peace,’’ read the man of the cloth while quoting part of Wisdom Chapter 3 verse one to five in the Holy Bible.
Oscar Osir who was among the leading scorers in the International Rugby Board (IRB) series described Ayimba as not only a dearly departed colleague but very devoted to the game to a fault.
“Benja, wanted to win every trophy at his disposal and was overly keen in spreading the sevens rugby all over the country. Rest in peace my brother,” said Osir.
Aslo in attendance during the mass was Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chairman Oduor Gangla.
Ayimba died last Friday at Nairobi hospital where he has been undergoing treatment for cerebral malaria.
He had commenced treatment late last year and had been admitted to the High Dependency Unit before his demise.
Born on 27 August 1976, Benjamin Otieno Ayimba, Benja as he was affectionately
known, enjoyed a stellar playing career in the back row at Impala RFC, the club
that he joined in 1995 after completion of his studies at Maseno School between
1991 and 1994.
He eventually captained Impala to two Kenya Cup league and Enterprise Cup
doubles in 2000 and 2001. He also led the side to three National Sevens Circuit
titles in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Benja would have stints at record Kenyan champions Nondescripts in 2002 and
English side Cornish Pirates between 2003 and 2005.
Capped for Kenya in the sevens and fifteens versions of the game between 1997
and 2006, Benja featured for Kenya Sevens at the 1998, 2002 and 2006
Commonwealth Games as well as the 2001 and 2005 Rugby World Cup Sevens
tournaments in Argentina and Hong Kong respectively.
After briefly coaching the Kenya Fifteens, he would then take up the Kenya
Sevens coaching job between 2006 and 2011. He steered the side to a first ever
World Series final in 2009 in Adelaide, before creating more history by steering
Shujaa to a first ever Rugby World Cup Sevens semifinal in 2009 in Dubai.
Returning for a second tour of duty as Head Coach in 2015, Benja led the team to
a maiden appearance at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro,Brazil as well as a
first ever World Series title when his side beat Fiji 30-7 in the 2016 Singapore
Away from Kenya Sevens, Benja had coaching stints at Homeboyz, Mean Machine and Kenya Harlequin where he served as Assistant Coach until his passing.
On Friday 21 May 2021, Benja breathed his last, succumbing to complications
from cerebral malaria that saw him spend the last few months of his life in hospital.