Mohammed Abdul Salim: The first Indian to play in a British club

We all know Baichung Bhutia and his debut for Bury in 1999 but more than sixty years ago, Mohammed Abdul Salim landed up on the shores of Scotland to play for Celtic FC.
On his debut in 1937 Salim, in bare feet, proved exceptional helping Celtic win 5-1. In his second match against Galston, Celtic won 7-1 and his performance led the Scottish Daily Express to write: “Indian Juggler – New Style.” Ten twinkling toes of Salim, Celtic FC’s player from India, hypnotised the crowd at Parkhead. He balanced the ball on his big toe, lets it run down the scale to his little toe, twirls it, and hops on one foot around the defender.”
Here is a poem celebrating Salim’s incredible feet!
The Indian Juggler
Players from all nations
Have represented Celtic on the pitch,
Where their culture is glorified
In wearing a Celtic strip,
And a man from India,
Where traditions are steep,
Stepped onto Parkhead’s hallowed turf
Wearing only bandages on his feet.
Mohammed Salim, to Calcutta,
He was born,
At a time when Nationalist,
Fought the British Crown,
Independence was the cry
Against “The Colonial Rule”,
Where matters could have been settled
With a game of football.
Mohammed’s career started with the
Mohammedan Sporting Club,
Where his skills on the wing
Helped them to 5 consecutive championships,
Then he headed for Europe,
Where days were dark and cold
As he set sail on the ocean liner,
“The City Of Cairo.”
Life in London,
Didn’t warm to his soul,
As he took to the sights
Of industrial Glasgow,
Where his gifted skills
Would be put on display,
As he was offered a trial by
Celtic’s Willie Maley.
Then, he wore for the first time,
The famous green & white hoops,
But his feet were strapped with bandages,
Not, leather football boots,
He shone like a diamond
In his few Celtic games,
Where headlines and praise
Offered him a little piece of fame.
Homesick for India,
Overshadowed his play,
As his career with Celtic
Was just a short stay,
But a charity match
Was played in his honour,
And he donated the gate receipts,
To Glasgow’s needy orphans.
“The Indian Juggler
With the twinkling toes”
Took his skill and trickery
Away from Glasgow’s shores,
He’s still remembered in
Celtic’s history books,
As his son still possesses,
Mohammed Salim’s old green & white hoops.

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2 comments on “Mohammed Abdul Salim: The first Indian to play in a British club
  1. this is an incredible story
    why are there no asian footballers in top level premiership clubs if this guy played in the 30s
    this is blatant racism

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