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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mohammed Abdul Salim: The Indian Juggler

Mohammed Abdul Salim (1904 - 1980) was the first Indian to play professional football in Europe. He came from Calcutta and played for Glasgow Celtic Reserves. Prior to joining Celtic Football Team, Mohammed Abdul Salim played for Calcutta's Mohammedan Sporting Club and East Bengal Club and won five league titles in a row. The player had no boots and played with bandaged feet which was common place in India but raised a few eyebrows in Glasgow, even in the thirties. Celtic manager, Willie Maley was well impressed with Mohammed when he appeared for a trial. Later Celtic had to seek approval from the Scottish Football Association to allow the player to play with bare feet. Christened the “Indian Juggler” by the press, Salim played two 'A' (reserve) matches against Hamilton Accies (5-1), and Galston (7-1). Despite his success he became homesick but the club realising his talents tried to encourage him to stay. In his honour they they organised a charity match and promised him 5% of the total proceed (£1,800). Salim refused and asked the money be donated to orphans. The player returned to India for the 1937 league season and joined Mohammedan Sporting Club again. Despite not becoming a first team player his legend lived on in the form of a short poem called "Indian Juggler".

(There was) "man from India
Where traditions are steep
Stepped onto Parkhead's hallowed turf
Wearing only bandages on his feet."

The first Scottish player to play in bare feet was an Egyptian called, Tewfik ‘Toothpick’ Abdullah who played for Cowdenbeath in 1920. The player had previously played for Derby County.

Reference
Majumdar B and Bandyopadhyay K 2006 A Social History of Indian Football: Striving to Score London: Routledge

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