Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
TWELVE-YEAR-OLD Natasha Choko will lead the Zimbabwe team to this year’s Africa Youth Chess Championships in Namibia starting this weekend.
It’s a typical Cinderella story that is set to transform the lives of four underprivileged girls from rural Chivhu.
The team, which also features Ruramai Tapambwa (10), Grace Zvarebwa (8) and Lynne Chidanire (8), has defied their background of poverty to dominate the game at national level.
From humble backgrounds, where they learnt to play the game on rough cardboards, the quartet from Davanhu Primary School rule the roost in the country after dominating the national chess finals for the past two years.
The Chivhu-based prodigies failed to represent the country at the previous edition of the Africa Youth Chess Championships in Egypt because of lack of funding.
Their story changed for the good this time around after well-wishers managed to raise US$5 300 for them to realise their dream of representing the country through a Gofundme account initiated by one Tatenda Tavaziva.
The team yesterday got a big boost from consumer goods manufacturer, Vamara Group, who chipped in ahead of the trip to Namibia, through their Sunrise Instant Porridge brand.
However, there is still a shortfall of US$1 000 for accommodation expenses during the two weeks they will be in Namibia.
Choko, who is yet to taste defeat in all local competitions, was excited by the opportunities that lay ahead of her and the team.
“I started playing chess a few years back when I was in Grade Three. I went to Bulawayo and won the national finals last year but I was not able to travel to Egypt for the African Championships.
“I won again in Bindura this year and was told I would represent the nation in Namibia but I was not sure if that would happen.
“So, it’s a dream come true for me to be able to represent Zimbabwe.
“I am also happy I will be travelling by plane for the first time. Chess has made me see places and I am grateful to everyone who made this possible and to Varama Group for the food hampers as well,” said Choko.
The Africa Youth Chess Championships is expected to run from tomorrow until December 22 in Windhoek.
The girls’ coach, Godknows Dembure, said he was impressed by the progress made by the quartet. “These girls have been doing well. They excelled at district level, and went to the provincial finals where they also won.
“We have been knocking on every door (after finding no joy with the Chess Federation) looking for resources but with no success.
“Then I decided to post on Twitter, on the last day of registration, and within 24 hours we had raised almost the whole amount of what was needed, thanks to the help of Tatenda Tavaziva.
“Varama Group have also been there for us. Food is a big challenge with these children in the rural areas and it was difficult to coach hungry students,” said Dembure.
Varama Group sales and marketing manager Moses Mwapfaa said the company planned to launch a schools’ initiative next year to create a conducive environment for talented youths.