President Uhuru Kenyatta joined Kenyans in mourning the late Kenya 7s head coach Benjamin Ayimba who passed on Friday night after a long battle with cerebral malaria.
Kenyatta who donated Kshs 1 million in April towards offsetting the medical bill of ex national team tactician mourned the departed sportsman as a Kenyan great and an icon of rugby saying the 45-year-old had inspired a generation of Kenyans to take up and excel in rugby.
“It is a sad day in the history of Kenyan sports having lost Benjamin.From his exploits on the field as as a rugby player and on the touchline as a coach, Ayimba inspired a generation of young Kenyans to take up and excel as rugby players. He was truly a national rugby icon,” the President eulogised.
President Kenyatta recalled the late athlete’s successes in the sport saying his most outstanding memory, as a rugby fan, was in 2016 when Kenya, coached by Ayimba, lifted the World Rugby Sevens Series main cup in Singapore after beating heavyweights Fiji.
He pointed out that the late Ayimba helped lift Kenya’s rugby from national obscurity to international stardom, positioning the country on the global map as one of the world’s emerging rugby nations.
“Besides earning Kenya accolades and global recognition as a rugby nation, Benjamin and his generation of players and coaches helped grow Kenya’s brand abroad benefiting sectors such as tourism, hospitality and aviation,” the President added.
Deputy President William Ruto on his part said the loss of Ayimba was a huge setback to the growth of the game especially in upcountry where he had initiated a lot of structures in partnerships with the Counties to revive its dwindling standards.
“We celebrate the life of a star and one of the world’s greatest sportsmen in history. Benjamin Ayimba was a gifted rugby player and coach with incredible drive and vigour towards attaining his goals. We will cherish his competitive mentality and accomplishments” he remarked.
Others who mourned Ayimba include former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Nairobi senator and his Siaya counterpart Johnson Sakaja and James Orengo respectively, NOCK President Paul Tergat, ex 7s international Humphrey Kayange among others.
He represented Kenya at Rugby Sevens World Cups (2001 and 2005), as a player. His first appointment as Kenya 7s head coach came in 2006, replacing his coach at Impala Bill Githinji, a position he held to 2011.
During his tenure in 2009 he guided Kenya to its first ever World Series Cup Final in Adelaide, Australia losing 26-7 to South Africa.
He made a comeback to the national team set up in 2015 as head coach and guided Kenya to its first ever Cup title in Singapore the following year (2016).
Benja as he was popularly known within sporting circles, captained the national 15s and Kenya Sevens teams, is regarded as the most successful sevens coach, having guided Kenya to their maiden victory in the World Rugby Sevens Series with victory at the 2016 Singapore Sevens.