Mohammed Salim: The ‘bare-footed Indian’ who wowed Celtic | Football

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Regardless of boasting the world’s second-biggest inhabitants, India has seen a remarkably small variety of its footballers make the journey to Europe to play in an expert league.

Solely 31 Indian gamers in the whole historical past of the sport have suited up for an expert membership in Europe, and most of them have been hidden within the decrease tiers.

In 1999, Bhaichung Bhutia turned the primary Indian participant to signal a contract with a European skilled membership when he joined Bury within the English Second Division.

This was seen as an enormous advance for India and brought about nice pleasure throughout the nation, however Bhutia, who was hailed as “God’s present to Indian soccer”, solely performed 46 video games in northwest England earlier than returning residence.

Though Bhutia was the primary to signal, he was not really the primary Indian to play for a European membership.

That honour belongs to the legendary Mohammed Salim, who achieved the feat 63 years earlier when he performed twice in Scotland for one in every of Europe’s largest golf equipment, Celtic.

Salim made historical past with out ever carrying a pair of soccer boots. As a substitute, he performed barefoot with solely bandages wrapped round his ft.

A barefoot message

Salim was born in 1904 in Kolkata, then generally known as Calcutta, in northeast India. He started a profession as a pharmacist, however this was by no means his true calling, and he turned to his actual love, soccer.

In 1926, on the age of twenty-two, he joined Chittaranjan Soccer Membership earlier than passing via Mohammedan Sporting Membership, Sporting Union, East Bengal Membership and Aryans Membership.

It was on his return to Mohammedan Sporting Membership in 1934 that he loved his biggest success, serving to them win the primary of 5 consecutive Calcutta Soccer Leagues.

This was at a time when India was struggling for independence from British colonial rule, and the Calcutta League had solely ever been gained by British groups, usually shaped from the British military, together with Durham Gentle Infantry and the North Staffordshire Regiment.

Mohammedan’s title in 1934 was an enormous symbolic second as the primary time an all-Indian staff had gained it.

“Many Indians took to soccer to reply British jibes Indians weren’t manly sufficient to rule themselves,” Boria Majumdar from the Worldwide Journal of the Historical past of Sport stated. “Indians performed in naked ft, and regardless of this, they defeated English males in boots, which was seen as proof that Indians weren’t inferior to the British.”

Altering groups

After profitable his third title with Mohammedan in 1936, Salim was chosen to signify an Indian staff to play two exhibition video games in opposition to the Chinese language Olympic facet forward of that yr’s Olympic Video games in Berlin.

Salim’s Chinese language opponents praised his efficiency within the first sport, however earlier than the second sport, he mysteriously disappeared, inflicting the Indian Soccer Affiliation to put newspaper ads asking for details about his whereabouts.

Salim was really on his strategy to Glasgow to attempt to prepare a trial with the Scottish giants and reigning champions Celtic.

Salim’s brother Hasheem, a shopkeeper in Scotstoun west of Glasgow, is believed to have been on vacation in Calcutta on the time, and after seeing his sibling’s efficiency in opposition to the Chinese language, persuaded Salim to board a British steamship and return to Scotland with him.

Hasheem spoke to the legendary Celtic supervisor Willie Maley, who was in cost for an unimaginable 43 years from 1897 to 1940 and gained 30 main trophies.

“An amazing participant from India has come by ship,” Hasheem instructed Maley. “Will you please take a trial of his? However there’s a slight drawback – Salim performs in naked ft.”

Nearing the top of his future in administration, Maley was intrigued by this prospect and determined to provide Salim a trial.

The Scottish Soccer Affiliation needed to give its approval for him to play in a aggressive sport with out boots. Earlier than the match, the Celtic assistant supervisor Jimmy McMenemy fastidiously wrapped Salim’s ft in bandages, which was famously captured by a photographer.

Greater than only a curiosity

On August 28, 1936, Salim performed for Celtic in opposition to Galston in an Alliance League sport at Celtic Park in entrance of seven,000 followers. Regardless of being the one participant on the pitch with out boots, Salim enchanted the gang along with his abilities and methods on the precise wing and contributed three assists within the snug 7-1 win.

“Salim was undoubtedly the star attraction within the Alliance sport at Celtic Park final night time,” wrote the previous Celtic participant Alec Bennett in The Report. “I daresay many of the crowd turned up out of curiosity than anything. Was it not one thing distinctive to see a person of color in a Celtic jersey and, what’s extra, one which did his stuff in his naked ft?”

“The Celtic assist made up their thoughts in regards to the Indian in jig time: The sport had not been very lengthy in progress nevertheless earlier than he had the gang ‘rooting’ for him and amazed at his cleverness,” Bennett wrote. “He hugged the touchline an excessive amount of, it’s true, and naturally didn’t threat the deal with, however in passing he appeared in a position to put the ball simply the place he needed, whereas his crossing of the ball was, to say the least of it, simply great.”

Within the Day by day Categorical, a headline learn, “Indian Juggler – New Fashion”, above a match report full of wide-eyed reward for Salim: “Ten twinkling toes of Salim, Celtic FC participant from India, hypnotised the gang final night time. He balances the ball on his massive toe, lets it run down the size to his little toe, twirls it, hops on one foot across the defender, then flicks the ball to the centre who has solely to ship it into objective.”

Earlier than Salim’s subsequent sport, The Night Instances raved about his expertise, featured {a photograph} of him in a Celtic package and instructed its readers he was “properly price seeing”.

Two weeks after his debut, Salim drew a crowd of 5,000 individuals to observe Celtic’s reserve staff sport in opposition to Hamilton Academicals, during which he scored from the penalty spot in a 5-1 win.

“The bare-footed Indian biffed the ball arduous to the left of the goalkeeper who, though managing to get his hand to it, was completely unable to stop it going into the web,” The Report reported.

“Resounding cheers greeted the Indian’s objective however Salim confirmed no outward signal of his emotions,” the newspaper stated. “… It was evident that the primary attraction was Salim. ‘Give the ball to Salim’ was the slogan of the gang, however the Celtic gamers correctly didn’t overwork the Indian, who crosses a splendid ball, however is way from being the whole participant.”

The Celtic board was naturally delighted on the elevated crowds and income Salim was producing on the reserve video games and provided to provide him 5 % of future gate receipts.

However he was greater than a mere novelty, and a fascinated Maley needed to develop him as a participant and signal him for the 1936-37 season.

Securing the household title

Salim, nevertheless, felt homesick and, after these two video games, determined to return to Calcutta and resume enjoying for Mohammedan Sporting Membership, the place he went on to win two extra titles in 1937 and 1938.

The fleeting expertise remained with him, and in 1949, he wrote to the Night Instances to safe a replica of Maley’s guide The Story of Celtic, during which he was briefly talked about.

There’s little or no identified about Salim’s later years earlier than his loss of life in 1989 on the age of 76, however in an interview in 2002, his son Rashid recalled reaching out to Celtic when his father had been unwell and wanted medical consideration.

“I had no intention of asking for cash. It was only a ploy to seek out out if Mohammed Salim was nonetheless alive of their reminiscence. To my amazement, I obtained a letter from the membership. Inside was a financial institution draft for £100. I used to be delighted, not as a result of I obtained the cash however as a result of my father nonetheless holds a pleasure of place in Celtic. I’ve not even cashed the draft and can protect it until I die.

“I simply need my father’s title to be put as the primary Indian footballer to play overseas. That’s the solely factor that I would like and nothing else.”

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