If there is one game Kenya excelled in, it was rugby and coach Benjamin Ayimba was that man with the midas touch who led the nation to three world cup finals. Before becoming coach, he was one a bankable rugby player who won a couple of Kenyan cups.
He will go down in history books as the first coach to lead Kenya to their first ever Sevens World Series title after thrashing Fiji 30-7 in 2016 Singapore 7s. In December 2010, the then president Mwai Kibaki decorated him with the Order of the Grand warrior (OGW) award to recognize his Sterling achievements.
Unfortunately, his life was cut short in May 2021 while he was undergoing treatment at Nairobi Hospital.
The former coach attended Olympic Primary in Nairobi and tried his hands at all sorts of sports. He then joined Maseno School in Nyanza.
“He participated and won in track field events. He even took part in 100m and 200m sprints, as well as the 800m race. He was also in the long jump and triple jump team, not to mention the school soccer team,” said Mr. Agutu who was his deputy principal at Maseno school.
Despite this, there was one sport he loved the most and it was rugby. He was awarded the accolade of “Overall Best Athlete” during his final year at Maseno School.
After high school, he was ripe for picking by some of the huge clubs and soon started playing for Impala RFC and a subsequent call up to the national team followed.
Ayimba then served as the national rugby team captain in the Kenya Sevens and 15s team and was first appointed Shujaa head coach in 2006. Three years later, he led the country to its first World Series Cup Final in Adelaide, Australia where the team lost to South Africa.
In 2011, he was fired after opposing the fielding of the team’s main players at the Safaricom Sevens in November that year. He was reinstated in 2016 and led Shujaa in winning the World Rugby Sevens Series after beating Fiji at the 2016 Singapore Sevens.
- Captained Impala saracens to the National sevens circuit title in 1999,2000 and 2001
- Captained Impala Saracens to Kenya Cup and Enterprise cup victories in 2000 and 2001.
- Played for record Kenyan champions Nondescripts in 2002.
- Played for English side club Cornish pirates in 2003 and 2005.
- Part of the Kenya 7s squad to the 2001 & 2005Rugby World Cup 7s and the 1998, 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth games.
- Kenya 7s and 15s International (1997-2006)
- Kenya 7s head coach 2006-2011, 2015-16
- Lead Kenya 7s to their first ever Sevens World Series Cup Final in Adelaide, Australia.
- Led Kenya 7s to a historic semifinal appearance at the 2009 Rugby World Cub in Dubai.
- Led Kenya 7s to qualification and participation at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The rugby legend was married to four wives. He had three children with the first wife Frabrica Awuor: Brian, Gabriel and Ochieng. He then married Caroline Waswa as the second wife, then the third and finally the fourth wife named Gloria Moraa, a former Tahidi actress who has gone to appear in other TV series.
A while back, Awuor moved to court and filed a civil case under the Children’s Act (2001) accompanied by a damning affidavit of neglect by the rugby tactician.
The defendant was ordered to cater for the minors’ school fees and related expenses pending hearing of the application.
“My husband Ayimba Benjamin Otieno without reason stopped providing shelter for the minors subjecting them to auctioneers in December 2018 with six months arrears amounting to Sh150,000 plus auctioneer fees of Sh30,000 this rendering them homeless,” she said.
The wives lived cordially together until he married the fourth wife and tension started. He had to move with the fourth wife to Athi River and in 2018 stopped taking care of his other family.
Nyaboke took to social media to mourn her husband:
‘I am angry because I can’t slap you back to reality, I am sad because I don’t know what I am going to tell your boys because they know you went to work far away and will come back one day…..”
”Rest well Otieno, I hope you made peace with God because I prayed the novena and asked God to give you a chance to make things right. I guess my prayers were in vain. This is numbing…….”
Illness and death
The former 7s coach had been battling cerebral malaria for quite sometime. Last month, the family came out to seek help over his ballooning medical bills, and the public responded in kind, with president Uhuru Kenyatta contributing Sh1 million towards his medical kitty. Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga also rallied the masses to support him.
Unfortunately, on Friday 21st May 2021, Benjamin Ayimba breathed his last.