Celtic’s Barefooted Juggler


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Posted in Articles, If you Know your history

With thanks to Supertim from KDS Forum, here is the remarkable story of Mohammed Salim or otherwise known as Salim Khan, a crowd pleasing magician who unfortunately had a short lived spell at Celtic Park which included a match v Galston (put £100 on the gate) and one v Hamilton Accies reserves (5,000 crowd), he had never worn football boots, so instead Jimmy McMenemy trainer at the time  bound his feet with 2 1/2” thick bandages, hope you enjoy

An extraordinary Story of How a Man from Calcutta ended up at Celtic Park.
As I was browsing the internet I found a story on an Indian Football Blog site with a campaign to get an Indian footballer the recognition that he deserves. The Player was Mohammed Salim. Salim was known for two main attributes, his ability to keep a football in the air and the fact that he played in his bare feet!
Salim was born in Calcutta in 1904, at a time when the English colonial rule was at its peak. The English had assumed rule of this nation with the Government on India Act in 1858 and this continued until the period of Partition when Pakistan was split from India in 1947.
Boria Majundar from the International Journal of the History of Sport states that Celtic were the first team to introduce an Indian player to European football when Salim came to Glasgow. “It shows how in the days of the Empire, Celtic broke barriers, living up to the ideal of the civilising mission and how this Indian in bare feet enchanted one half of Glasgow”.
Mr Majundar set the scene for the unrest of the period “At that time, with Indian Nationalists fighting for Independence from British Colonial rule many Indians took to Football to answer British jibes that Indians were not ‘manly’ enough to rule themselves”  
These opinions were to be proven wrong during a football match which the indigenous people were to beat the British at their own game. “The Indians played in bare feet and despite this they defeated the English men in boots, which was seen as evidence that the Indians were not inferior to the British”
Salim played his football at the Mohammden Sporting Club, which had claimed five Calcutta senior league titles in a row. In 1936 Salim’s cousin Hasheem saw him play in a friendly match and convinced the 22 year old to try his luck at European football.
After a short trip from Cairo to London the two cousins ended up in Glasgow. His cousin announced to then Celtic Manager Willie Maley that “A great player from India has come by boat” and convinced him to give Salim a trial. Maley agreed to this, even after he had heard that the player plays without boots, his feet tightly bound in bandages.
Salim’s skill and ability with a football was said to have amazed Maley and he hurriedly arranged a friendly match to see if this immense talent could be transferred onto the field of play.
Salim made his competitive debut against Galston on the 28th August 1936 and immediately made an impact on supporters and the press alike with headlines such as “Indian Juggler – New Style” appearing in the Scottish Daily Express the next morning. The story which accompanied the headline had enough hyperbole contained within it to embarrass Daryll Broadfoot – “Ten twinkling toes of Salim, Celtic FC’s player from India hypnotised the crowd at Parkhead last night. He balances the ball on this big toe, lets it run down the scale to his little toe, twirls it and hops on one foot around the defender”

Salim sadly left Scotland a few months later due to homesickness. Willie Maley, in the true spirit of playing attractive football attempted to keep the talented player at Celtic Park but it was to no avail. Maley even arranged a charity/’testimonial’ match in Salim’s honour to attempt to keep him in Glasgow to no avail. Rashid, Salim’s son, told the story of this match “Celtic tried to persuade my father to stay by offering to organise a charity match in his honour, giving him five percent of the gate proceeds. My father did not realise what five percent would amount to, and said he would give his share to orphans who were to be special invitees for the match. Five per cent came to £1,800 but although my father was astonished, he kept to his word,” Rashid said.
He returned to Calcutta and back to Mohammeden Sporting club where he played out the rest of his career. Several years later, Rashid wrote to Celtic informing them about his father’s distress and poor health due to old age. He wrote of the money required for Salim’s treatment.
Rashid said, “I had no intention of asking for money. It was just a ploy to find out if Mohammed Salim was still alive in their memory. To my amazement, I received a letter from the club. Inside was a bank draft for £100. I was delighted, not because I received the money but because my father still holds a pride of place in Celtic. I have not even cashed the draft and will preserve it till I die.”

Mohammed Salim passed away on the 5th November 1980 and will forever be remembered as not only the first Indian player to play in Europe but also as an amazing talent who transcended oppression in order to play the game he loved with dignity and pride.
We should never forget this very special human being


  1. Posted August 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    A humbling story of a great man!

  2. Hasan Rashid
    Posted October 5, 2013 at 4:36 am | Permalink

    Dear All:
    Despite several proofs and records of my grandfather’s achievements neither the Government nor the Sporting body of India has given any form of recognition to my grandfather.
    Its a shame.

  3. Veronica Haughey
    Posted November 26, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    Dear Hasan Rashid

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