From Fratton to film: Former Pompey star John Utaka turns to acting

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FORMER Pompey striker John Utaka has tried his hand at something new – acting.

Utaka has made his big screen debut in the film Battered, which has premiered at London’s Odeon Greenwich cinema.

ACTOR John Utaka with his co-star Fatima Jabbe

ACTOR John Utaka with his co-star Fatima Jabbe

The Nigerian player portrays a police officer who investigates a case of domestic abuse.

The 31-year-old took on the role as a favour to a friend, Fatima Jabbe, who produced the film.

Ms Jabbe, who also plays the lead female role, said Utaka was happy to help raise awareness of domestic violence by starring in the film.

Fatima said: ‘I have known him a long time and he’s been a very good friend of mine. When he heard about the project he was interested and said: “Is there anything I can do to help?”

And she said she wanted people to judge Utaka’s acting skills for themselves.

‘He looked the part and dressed the part,’ she added.

‘I’ll let people go and decide what they think.’

The film tells the story of a woman who suffers physical, mental and emotional abuse at the hands of her husband.

Fatima said domestic violence was a universal and often-ignored problem.

‘It’s something that happens all over the world but everyone is shy to talk about it.

‘I thought that a good way of getting people to talk about it would be to put it in the format of a film.’

Battered has its roots in Nollywood, the Nigerian answer to Hollywood, but Fatima said the film’s cast and crew hailed from many different African countries.

She said Utaka used his real name in the role in the hope the footballer’s popularity would give the production a boost.

‘We thought it would have more effect on people instead of giving him a character name,’ she said.

Battered was filmed in London last winter, and a general cinema release will follow.

The Blues paid £7m for Utaka in 2007 and he spent four years at the club, appearing 90 times and scoring 10 goals.

After leaving in 2011 he went to Montpellier and now plays for Turkish club Sivasspor.

Fatima said she had also helped the football star launch the John Utaka Foundation, which is based in London and supports disabled children in Africa