As a player, Benjamin Ayimba was uncompromising. There is never a dull moment in the backrow where quick decision is crucial to have an edge over your opponent. These are some of the qualities the former outspoken Kenya player and captain took to his new job as a seven-a-side coach.
Never afraid to escape any tackles, Ayimba has remained fiery as ever calling a spade a spade which led to his sacking. For quite sometime now, Ayimba has been under scrutiny because of Kenya’s poor performance and things came to a head when he clashed with the newly elected Kenya Rugby Union chairman Mwangi Muthee in London. A KRU board member said the change was long overdue.
“The reasons – for sacking Ayimba – are obvious. We need to stem the free fall and bring in new ideas,” he said.
In his characteristic style, Ayimba explained to Mwangi that some of the promises were hollow and would need careful thought before being implemented. One such promise was that the Kenya Sevens team should be fully professional.
Two days ago, sportsnewsarena.com sought the coach for an exclusive interview. Below, he details a mutiny by players, his future plans and who he thought would have been the best replacement.
SNA: Has the union told you anything about being relieved of coaching duties?
AYIMBA: Yes through an email from the squad management committee.
SNA: Did they give you the reasons?
AYIMBA : Yes. Slump in performance.
SNA: Were you a factor to the slump?
AYIMBA: As I coach, I take responsibilities for the performance of the team. Categorically speaking, there have been lots of gains. Teams go through changes and you just have to look around. For example, France, Scotland, England, Argentina, Fiji and Wales have gone through a slump. It is not unusual. What performance are we being judged by? For sometime, many people wrote us off as a one-day-wonder. We had self-belief and that is why Kenya is a core team today.
SNA: Did you see it coming?
AYIMBA Yes I did miles away. This was after we had a stormy meeting in London with the KRU and categorically stated what I felt needed to be said. It seems that triggered off the talk of my being sacked. I would be betraying the cause if I do not tell the truth which sometimes is bitter.
SNA: What did you say in London?
AYIMBA That before the KRU gives promises, it is important to evaluate the consequences. Making the team professional is a big time commitment and although we have been diligently working towards this, it would take small steps. It is the only way and that is how it has been done everywhere.
SNA: It is said you were disrespectful.
AYIMBA: If by telling the truth I was disrespectful, then the word has lost meaning. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet. I am not accustomed to coating my answers with niceties. Respect is a two way process. I do respect my seniors and employers by diligently performing my duties and giving timely feed backs.
SNA: Is changing the coach a solution for Kenya’s free fall?
AYIMBA: There are people who feel this is the way to go. Some players also feel there needed to be a change. If I am a stumbling block, I am happy to let go. There is no quick fix to anything especially the situation we are in now. KRU must spend money to put structure in place for the good of the game as a whole.
SNA: Some players feel it is and that you ran out of ideas?
AYIMBA: Yes I know. My best wishes to them with the new technical bench. Let me just say that most of the players had become too full of themselves and never even went to church since they became stars and expected to remain in Gods’ favour. Success got into their heads and humility was thrown out of the window. The players should ask themselves whether they gave their best and whether they were not contributors to the free fall.
SNA: Does it mean you had lost respect of some players?
AYIMBA: Let me just say that success had got into their heads and they lost humility which is a big virtue for any sportsman/woman. I told them off and hence them thinking I had run out of ideas.
SNA: Any particular players?
AYIMBA: It was a group thing with exception of one player (name withheld).
SNA: So the free fall is not about any change of tactics but an attitude by some players?
AYIMBA: Yes it is but I vowed to always protect them. Honestly I feel let down by the players whose ego was up there. The next coach may face the same attitude. Players have to respect their coach and not assume the role of the coach.
SNA: Do you feel let down by the players?
AYIMBA: To be honest yes because they thought success comes easy. They want a softer route? Good luck because there is none. I can’t wait to see how they react to being treated like 19-year olds.
SNA: What are your plans now?
AYIMBA: Concentrate on developing my rugby school, run my printing and gaming arcade businesses, do work for SuperSport, coach Nondies and write proposal to create a team in south Sudan. SuperSport are creating a rugby weekly magazine and they need an analyst.
SNA: Do you have any regrets?
AYIMBA: None at all. I am very fulfilled.
SNA: What if some team approaches you to coach?
AYIMBA: I will go provided the terms are good.
SNA: You spoke of structures, what did you have in mind?
AYIMBA: Have a fully fledged Shujaa side with support and structure like the main team, take them to tournaments, make the players available for the coach at all times without club interference.
SNA: Was club interference a big factor in Kenya’s performance this season?
AYIMBA: Yes big time. Some of the KRU directors were culprits and even some of those who have been named to the new technical bench. Unless a coach has a free hand, it becomes difficult to produce results or even prepare. We had an agreement with club coaches about the release of players but when you have other people meddling with the system, it is difficult to move ahead.
SNA: You were quoted on Kenya TV, what did you say that seems to have struck a wrong chord with the rugby fraternity?
AYIMBA: I said that they have thrown Mitch in fire without proper preparation. The players are so much more experienced in the game that he is in the modern game.
SNA: Would you be willing to give Mitch support if he asks for it?
AYIMBA: He has replaced me hence he is deemed better what advice can I give a better person? I think Humphrey (Kayange) would have been the best person for the job.