Catur Ubah Hidup Phiona

Walaupun cahaya dalam biliknya malap, matanya tidak lepas memandang papan catur di depannya sambil otaknya ligat memikirkan strategi untuk memperbaiki kemahirannya dalam permainan yang membawanya jauh ke hadapan itu.

“Catur sudah mengubah hidup saya. Sebelum ini, saya tidak menaruh harapan langsung dalam hidup, tetapi kini keadaan jauh berbeza – saya boleh jadi doktor atau pemain profesional,” tutur suara lembut Phiona Mutesi, remaja dari pinggir bandar Katwe di Kampala, sambil membetulkan kedudukan kaca matanya.

Ketika kecil, hidupnya memang susah terutama selepas ayahnya meninggal dunia. Namanya mula dikenali apabila gadis miskin ini memasuki pertandingan catur antarabangsa yang diadakan dari Sudan hinggalah ke Siberia.

Pada usia 16 tahun, Phiona menjadi perempuan Uganda pertama yang berjaya sampai ke tahap Candidate Master dan menjadi juara bagi kejohanan catur di bawah 20 tahun. Kini, wakil dari Disney menemuinya dan mengemukakan cadangan supaya kisah hidupnya difilemkan.

Apa istimewanya Phiona sehingga studio filem gergasi itu berminat merakamkan kisah hidupnya dalam filem? Di sebalik semua kejayaannya, Phiona sebenarnya tidak pernah belajar bermain catur secara teratur.

Pada usia sembilan tahun, Phiona terpaksa berhenti sekolah kerana ibunya tidak mampu menanggung perbelanjaan persekolahannya.

Ketika itulah dia mula mengikut abangnya ke kelab catur untuk bakat baru, bukan untuk bermain, tetapi bagi menikmati bubur nasi percuma yang dihidangkan bagi pengunjung.

“Kemudian saya mula tertanya, catur ini permainan apa? Dari situlah saya mula belajar bermain,” kata remaja itu memulakan ceritanya.

Dia sebenarnya tidak tahu tarikh sebenar dia dilahirkan. Ayahnya meninggal dunia akibat Aids dan tidak lama kemudian, kakaknya pula menghembuskan nafas terakhir, tetapi puncanya tidak diketahui. Dia kemudian menyertai program yang dikendalikan Sports Outreach Institute yang mengajarnya bermain catur.Pada 2010, dia bermain dalam Kejohanan Catur ke-39 Uganda dan pada 2011, Phiona menjadi juara tiga tahun berturut-turut dalam Kejohanan Catur Wanita Junior Uganda.

Tahun lalu, Phiona dan Ivy Amoko meraih gelaran Woman Candidate Master (WCM), atas kecemerlangan prestasi mereka dalam Kejohanan Catur ke-40, dan nama mereka tercatat dalam sejarah catur Uganda.

Orang yang bertanggungjawab memperkenalkan Phiona dan kanak-kanak setinggan lain kepada dunia catur ialah jurulatihnya, Robert Katende.

Bekas pemain bola sepak itu bertukar haluan daripada padang bola ke papan catur apabila dia mendapat ilham untuk mengajar kanak-kanak jalanan bermain catur walaupun pada 2003, tidak seorang pun yang pernah mendengar nama sukan yang menguji kemahiran minda itu.

“Saya sebenarnya mencari-cari jalan untuk mendekati kanak-kanak ini dan apabila idea mengajar itu datang, saya keluarkan papan catur lama dan terus pergi ke kampung setinggan,” kata Katende, 30.

Menurut Katende, catur biasanya diajar di sekolah swasta atau elit dan ternyata ia memang cepat memikat minat pelajar barunya.

Bagi kanak-kanak setinggan yang hidupnya kais pagi makan pagi dan sangat memerlukan tempat tinggal, permainan itu memberi satu pelajaran sepanjang hayat yang berguna dan meningkatkan keyakinan diri mereka.

Dua perkara berharga yang tidak boleh dibeli dengan wang.”Catur bukan sekadar permainan atau sukan, ia satu cara untuk mengubah kehidupan.

“Apabila berhadapan dengan cabaran anda perlu berfikir langkah terbaik untuk mengatasinya. Bagi kanak-kanak yang mungkin terbabit dalam jenayah kecil atau menjadi pencuri, catur menjadikan mereka berdisiplin,” katanya.

Sejak hari pertama mereka bermain menggunakan papan yang dilukis sendiri dan buah catur dibuat daripada penutup botol, kelab catur Katende mempunyai sejarah yang menarik.

Walaupun berhadapan dengan masalah ketidakcukupan kemudahan dan peralatan, anggota kelab seramai 63 orang – dengan ahli termuda berumur empat tahun – bersesak duduk di atas bangku panjang dalam bilik sewa yang dijadikan rumah kelab mereka. Meskipun semuanya serba uzur, ada cukup papan catur untuk anggotanya berlatih bermain.

Sambil baring meniarap, Michael Talemwa, 11, menolak buah caturnya dengan jari bagi menyekat serangan lawan.

Seperti kanak-kanak lain yang tinggal di kampung setinggan sesak itu, Talemwa juga tidak banyak peluang belajar sehinggalah dia mendengar cerita mengenai kelab catur berkenaan.

“Dulu kebanyakan masa saya habiskan di rumah, tidak buat apa-apa. Satu hari, seorang kawan datang dan mengajak saya bermain catur. Masa itu saya tidak tahu apa-apa dan beritahu kawan tadi saya tidak pandai bermain catur, tetapi dia bersungguh-sungguh meyakinkan supaya kami belajar,” kata Talemwa.

Kini selepas dua tahun berada di situ dan melihat prestasi cemerlang anggota kelab seperti Phiona, Talemwa berkata dia mahu mengulangi kejayaan berkenaan.

“Saya rasa sungguh gembira bila dengar seorang kawan kami berjaya sampai ke tahap yang amat membanggakan dan berharap saya juga boleh sampai ke situ,” katanya.

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