It is difficult to survive with your siblings by scrounging for food. But that’s the life that was once lived by Phiona Mutesi out of Uganda. Called “the ultimate underdog” by those who admire her, the young woman has risen to become one of the most celebrated and respected chess superstars in the world. In fact, they are planning to make a Disney movie out of her story.
When she was three, Mutesi’s father died of AIDS. She doesn’t even know her real birthday. “I thought the life I was living, that everyone was living that life,” she said to CNN. “I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat at the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge.”
The girl said that her lack of exposure led her to think that this was the life she was intended to live. A missionary by the name of Robert Katende met the little girl and started a chess program. He offered a bowl of porridge to any child who would learn how to play.
“It teaches you how to assess, how to make decisions, obstructive thinking, forecasts, endurance, problem solving, and looking at challenges as an opportunity in all cases — and possibly not giving up,” he told CNN. “The discipline, the patience … anything to do with life, you can get it in that game.”
The man immediately noticed how talented the young woman was and groomed her for competition. She said that it took her a year to learn to play well and that she would walk four miles to practice in order to get the food. Eventually, Mutesi became the Ugandan champion and was competing in Russia.
“Chess gave me hope, whereby now I’m having a hope of becoming a doctor and … a grand master,” she said.
Disney has bought the rights to her story, which is one that will inspire millions around the world.