A TALENTED footballer and exceptional army officer, Walter Tull managed great achievements in his 29 years.

Yet the remarkable and inspiring story of his life, which saw him overcome racial prejudice in both the sporting and military worlds, is little known by many.

Now a talented cast of actors is bringing the story of Tull to The Octagon Theatre next week.

The professional footballer was the first black outfield player in the old First Division in Great Britain, an inside forward for Tottenham Hotspur and Northampton Town.

As well as his achievements on the pitch, Tull became one of the first black British officers in the Army during the First World War, displaying heroism and a natural flair to lead and inspire.

Nathan Ives-Moiba, who will appear in the lead role, admits he knew nothing about the man before finding out about the play, which is written by Phil Vasili, author of Walter Tull’s biography.

Nathan said: “I think he’s a pretty amazing man. He’s a very resilient character.

“He came from abject poverty and got abandoned at the age of nine by his mother and father, who died, and his brother, who got adopted and went to Scotland.

“He could’ve easily fallen by the wayside, but he became a professional footballer and an officer in the Army.

“It makes you think, what he would’ve gone on to do if he hadn’t died.”

Having fought and survived the first Battle of the Somme, Tull was killed in the second, in March, 1918, during the German Spring Offensive, aged 29.

Many believe his promising career at Spurs was cut short because of the racism he endured week in, week out.

In December, 1914, he had enlisted in the Footballers’ Battalion (Middlesex Regiment) and, by May, 1917, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant despite military regulations forbidding “any negro or person of colour” to become an infantry officer.

Speaking of Tull’s strength and determination, Nathan said: “The writer, Phil, strongly believes it was his Methodist upbringing because it was strict and regimented.

“And also using sport to further your mental well-being through physical exertion.

“Definitely his Methodist roots had a big influence on that, but some people are just born that way. Some people are just resilient.”

Nathan, who trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (Lamda), said he has never been the victim of racial prejudice although his sister has.

He said: “My older sister came over from Sierra Leone when she was 11. There’s seven years between us and she experienced lots of racism.

“I remember her coming home with her hair having been pulled out and getting abuse.

“Her experience growing up is completely different to mine. She would say that I was oblivious to it.

“I’ve never experienced anything on the scale that Walter Tull experienced.

“I don’t think it’s because it doesn’t happen now, just because where I grew up in North London.

“It was a really multi-cultural area so I never experienced any racism.

“The only time I became aware of my colour was when I went to drama school. You felt like you were being sidelined for parts because of your colour. If there’s a black role, you’ve got to play it.

“And coming out of drama school, you hear a lot of horror stories about roles for black actors.

“About stereotyping and playing a hoodie for the rest of your life.”

When Nathan first signed up to play the role last autumn, racism in football was firmly in the spotlight, from Bolton Wanderer striker Marvin Sordell’s claims he and other teammates were racially abused by some Millwall fans, to ugly scenes after England’s under-21 match in Serbia.

He said: “It’s crazy. When I read the play, within days the Danny Rose incident happened in Serbia — you couldn’t separate the two.

“Bananas, bottles being thrown, monkey chants. The whole crowd directing this hate at one person. It’s a shame that it happens 100 years later.”

About the play, Nathan said: “It’s made up of eight actors, playing several parts.

“We are doing it without props or scenery or anything. I’ve got the easy job of playing one man. They are swapping from role to role seamlessly.”

Tull, directed by Octagon artistic director David Thacker, is at the Octagon from Thursday, February 21, until Saturday, March 16. For more information, visit octagonbolton.co.uk or phone 01204 520661.