Mohammad Salim, best known as the man who played barefoot

Mohammad Salim, best known as the man who played barefoot, but he’s recognised for so much more…

 Mohammed Salim only played a couple of bounce games for Celtic back in the 1930s but is well known in legend as the man who played barefooted with bandages wrapped round his feet. Unimaginable know, but even unimaginable back in the days of the rough and tumble of ‘contact’ football not to mention the solid lump of leather they kicked around.

Of course Salim achieved much more in his career than turning out in the famous hoops a couple of times. Much more than that.

As a youngster he was inspired by the famous Mohan Bagan side who made history by becoming the first all Indian side to win the IFA shield by defeating British army side East Yorkshire regiment. British army sides monopolised the tournament at the time so it was a big accomplishment.

Born in 1904 and raised in the lower middle class locality in Metiaburuz Calcutta part of the British Raj and now known as Kolkata West Bengal. The young Mohammad loved football from a young age and although a chemist and pharmacist he shunned academic training and pursued his dream of being a footballer.

With a lot of Indian Nationalists fighting British rule they used the beautiful game to prove they weren’t inferior to the smug Brits who didn’t think the natives were capable of home rule. On more than a few occasions the natives would challenge the British on the football field and took great delight in wiping the arrogant smug smiles off the their faces by beating them barefooted nonetheless, opposed to the fully booted Brits.

Salim was no different and had the belief instilled into him that he was as good as the Europeans at his first club Chittaranjan, this continued at his other clubs Mohammedan Sporting club, Sporting Union, and East Bengal club.

It was in a second spell with Mohammedan Sporting Club that he achieved prominence, Winning three titles and an IFA shield. In 1936 he was selected to play in exhibition matches against the Chinese Olympic side. The first being for an Indian select and the second for a civil and military select side. The first game ended in a draw and Salim received high praise for his performance.

Things took and interesting turn for the second game when Salim disappeared and the police were instructed to find him and even put adverts in the newspaper to locate him, but it was to no avail as he was heading to Britain via Cairo after a relative named Hasheem who lived in England persuaded him to try his luck in the UK.

After a few days in London Salim travelled with Hasheem to Glasgow and they visited Celtic park. Hasheem persuaded Willie Maley to give Salim a trial even though he was an unknown quantity who spoke no English and played barefoot. He wowed a watching whooping one thousand club members and three coaches with his skills and was given the Chance to further impress in two alliance matches.

Salim scored in a 5-1 win over Hamilton accies and then started again in a 7-1 win over Galston. He wowed the intrigued crowd and the press who were curious to see not just the first Indian player to play on these shores but a player who played barefoot and he was a stand out in both games. Not just because of his bandaged feet but his skills on the ball. He mesmerised them and left a huge impression. He proved he was the real deal and not just a circus act.

More importantly he impressed Willie Maley. Salim unfortunately became homesick and decided to return home. Celtic pleaded with him to stay for a year, even offering to arrange a charity match on his behalf which he would be entitled to five percent of the gate receipts. Salim refused but kindly asked that his share be donated to local orphans.

There was also another offer on the table form a club in Germany but he returned home to play for Mohammedan sporting club once again where he would win a further two titles.

When Mohammed Salim died in 1980 he left a great legacy not just at home but also thousands of miles from his homeland. He was the first Indian to play for Celtic and indeed the first Indian to play in Europe. Even though he only played in two friendly matches he’s still highly regarded in Celtic folklore.

JustAnOrdinaryBhoy – follow on Twitter @ordinarybhoy

About Author

An ordinary everyday Celtic supporters hailing and still residing in Govan in the shadows of the enemy. I’m a season ticket holder. I Witnessed my first Celtic game in 1988 and have attended when I can ever since. Growing up in the 90s I witnessed Celtic at their lowest, and now appreciate the historic success we enjoy today. I enjoy writing about this wonderful football club and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve always been a keen writer and initially started this a hobby. My ambition is to one day become as good an author as my fellow Celtic Star colleagues.


  1. RPM Celticfan on

    Cant believe you didnt mention the cheque Celtic sent his family when they were informed he was ill , great story an incredible man , Hail hail .