Bengaluru: Ishan Pandita aged 18 years Bengaluiru boy who took one of the biggest decisions of his life and told his parents that he wanted to take a sabbatical from studies and pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer in Europe Three years ago became the first Indian player to get a professional contract from a La Liga club when he signed a one year deal with Leganes. The city is located on the outskirts of Madrid and is currently placed 11th in the league table.
The move of taking a sabbatical from studies and playing football raised many eyebrows – and also a few laughs – but Ishan was determined. His perseverance and passion for football finally paid off late on Monday evening when he signed the contract.
Handed the No 50 jersey by club vice-president and owner Felipe Moreno, Pandita who has joined the first team but given the exposure required at this age, he will start by playing for the junior side – Leganes B who ply their trade in the Tercera Division (the fourth division of football in Spain).
“It’s been a tough, hard three years here in Spain but at the end, it was all worth it,” Ishan said to Times of India from the Spanish capital. “It feels great to be the first Indian to go down this path. Right from the moment I decided to take a break from studies till now, I never gave up on my dream,” he added.
“What impressed us most about Ishan were his physical attributes and ability to score goals,” Leganes academy director Jorge Broto Benavente said. “It’s too early to say when he will break into the main team – he is a young player, a rough diamond to be worked on.”
Besides Leganes, Getafe had also shown interest in signing the Indian striker who has Kashmiri roots. But Getafe’s relegation allowed Pandita to choose Leganes as his destination.
Late last year, Ishan had joined the U-18 team of Spanish Segunda Division (second division) club UD Almeria for an eight-month stint. Since he hadn't turned 18 then, he couldn't sign a professional contract. The young, talented striker's stint in Spain began with Alcobendas CF in Madrid, a feeder club for Spanish giants Atletico Madrid.
Having spent almost a month now with Leganes, Ishan is all praise for the club's infrastructure and facilities for youth development. "We've got a new field for the youth players since we moved to La Liga. The facilities are state-of-the-art and we have a fantastic coaching and support staff. We get a lot of attention and in every training programme, they make you feel as professional as possible. More importantly, everyone is an equal here," said Ishan, who is one of two foreign players in the U-19 squad.