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INTERVIEW | John Utaka talks Ismaily, Mohsen Saleh, Mido & more

John Utaka
Former Ismaily superstar John Chukwudi Utaka talks to about his time at the Dervishes, Ahmed Hossam Mido & the player he wished to play with in Egypt.

Now plying his trade at Turkish club Sivasspor, former Ismaily player spoke keenly to KingFut’s Operations Manager Marwan Ahmed about his memories and time at the club.

The player enjoyed a successful period at the Dervishes during the 2000/2001 season, scoring 17 goals in 21 appearances as well as winning the Egyptian Premier league & Cup with the club.

Before joining Ismaily, Utaka had made his name at Arab Contractors where he joined them in 1998, making over 40 appearances in two seasons.

Following his departure from Ismaily, Utaka broke the record for most expensive transfer in Qatar’s history, costing Al Saad one million USD.

The player then had some stints at French clubs Lens & Rennes, ending those by joining English outfit Portsmouth, breaking their all-time transfer record.

At Portsmouth, Utaka managed to win the FA Cup in 2008, playing a keyrole in their triumph. Following four successful seasons at the Pompeys, Utaka went back to France with Montpellier where he managed to be crowned Ligue 1 champion under René Girard in a strong side that boasted the likes of Younés Belhanda & Olivier Giroud.

Marwan Ahmed: You started your illustrious career in Ismaily, can you tell us about your days there from what you remember?

John Utaka: You know football is a collective sport, without good players in Ismaily club, it would have been difficult to make it. I am thankful we had a very good team.

MA: You played with several stars like Barakat, Emad El-Nahas and Islam El-Shater who all later moved to Al Ahly. Would it have been possible for you to join them at Al Ahly if you had stayed at the club?

JU: True some of them went to Al Ahly club like you mentioned, great players. Al Ahly club is a great club too but in football sometimes you never know where your next move will be. So I did not know if I would have gone or not because I did not have the opportunity.

MA: Before you left Egypt, did Al Ahly or Zamalek contact you to sign you?

JU: No, they did not.

MA: Mohsen Saleh, you previously had very nice words about him. Can you tell us more about your relationship with him and the effect he’s had on your career?

JU: I am very grateful to have worked with captain Mohsen Saleh. He was a very good and honest man and a superb coach. He knows how to get the best out of his players. He helped me progress a lot in the field of play and have confidence in my abilities, and that for me is important as a player.

John Utaka

MA: You once broke the record for transfers in Qatar when you joined Al Sadd for one million USD. You did it again when you broke the record in Portsmouth. Starting at Ismaily, did you expect this would happen?

JU: No I did not expect it to happen, but I work very hard, pray and believe that once I put in my best in what I do, good things will come.

MA: Ismaily recently signed former Tottenham & AS Roma striker Ahmed Hossam ‘Mido’ to be their manager. Do you still follow the club’s news? What do you think of Mido’s appointment?

JU: Ahmed Hossam was a very good player. He played in many clubs in Europe and have the experience to manage a very good team as well. So I think he is a good choice for Ismaily club. Yeah, I do follow the club news.

MA: Who is the best player you have played with in Egypt, and the best player you wished to play with in Egypt?

JU: I played with a lot of good players in Egypt, so it’s difficult for me to pick the best. I would’ve liked to play with Hossam Hassan.

MA: Finally, the song “Oh. Oh, Oh, Utaka” Ismaily fans cheered for you, do you miss it?

JU: The song, yeah I do miss it. I love Ismailia fans, they are the best!

KingFut would like to wish Mr. Utaka the best in his coming endeavours.

Operations and Business Development Manager of KingFut. Degree in Pharmacy and Biotechnology from the German University in Cairo. Manchester United fan.

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