'Indian juggler' was a Celtic star

HERE'S a football story worthy of the World Cup.

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Meet Mohammed 'Abdul' Salim, the first footballer from the Indian sub-continent to play for a European club. And he did it right here in Glasgow, with Celtic FC.

Born in Calcutta in 1904, Abdul's life-story reads like something from the pen of Rudyard Kipling (the famed chronicler of the Raj, not the one who makes exceedingly good cakes).

Abdul was a born footballer and, as with most British exports, the locals - playing in their bare feet -were soon so good at the game that they were regularly thrashing the football-boot-wearing white incomers.

Abdul helped Calcutta's Mohammedan Sporting Club to five consecutive League titles in the 1930s before setting sail for Europe.

He arrived at Celtic Park in 1936, still playing in bare feet, and stunned club boss Willie Maley with his ball skills.

He played in just a few matches - earning the nickname 'The Indian Juggler' - before he felt homesick for India.

Celtic pleaded with him to remain in Scotland for a season, even offering to organise a charity match on his behalf and promising him five percent of the total gate proceeds.

Salim refused and asked that the money (£1800, a huge sum on those days) be donated to local orphans.

He returned to India in time for the 1937-38 season, and played out the rest of his days with the Mohammedans side in Calcutta.

In later years, when he fell ill, Celtic sent money to help make his old age a little easier.

Abdul died, aged 76, in 1980.


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