In a landmark achievement, a 18-year-old Bengaluru boy Ishan Pandita signed a professional contract with a La Liga club. He is the Indian football players to achieve this honour.
Benguluru boy signed a one-year contract with newly promoted side Club Deportivo Leganes, who are 11th in La Liga. In an event held at Estadio Municipal de Butarque stadium in Leganes, Pandita was given his No.50' blue-and-white striped home jersey.
"It's been a tough, hard three years here in Spain but at the end, it was all worth it," Ishan told Times of India. In the initial period he will be playing in the club's U-19.
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 dreamIshan Pandita
The boy who is Kashmiri by birth , came to Bengaluru to pursue his studies. He took a sabbatical and left for Madrid for football coaching, three years ago. The young determined player joined the U-18 team of Spanish Segunda Division (second division) club UD Almeria for an eight-month stint after a rigorous coaching.
What impressed us most about Ishan were his physical attributes and ability to score goals. 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 onAcademy director Jorge Broto Benavente
Talking about his experience Ishant said that adapting Spanish style of game was very risky and he owned it through hard work and by the instructions of experts.
“It was a bit hard to adapt and play the Spanish way in my initial days here. But since all the training I got during my formative years was from British coaches in Philippines, where I lived for a few years, the transition was smooth,” said Ishan.
Before joining Leganes, Ishan had almost assured his seat in an another La Liga club, Ge Tafe.
"The trials went well and the club was very interested in signing me. But sadly , they got relegated and my aim was to sign for a club in La Liga," he added.
Ishant also lauded Leganes for providing good infrastructure and facilities for young aspiring players.
We’ve got a new field for the youth players since we moved to La Liga. The facilities are stateof-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 hereIshan
All India Football Federation hailed Ishan Pandita for his achievement.
Congratulating Pandita, AIFF President Praful Patel tweeted, "Heartiest congratulations to Ishan Pandita, first Indian to sign for Spanish @LaLiga club. A landmark achievement at such a young age."
Ishant's father Neeraj Pandita said that his son "will be eyeing the main team."
"He will be playing for the U-19 team and will be eyeing the main team. He has been in Spain for the last three years and I am happy for him," Neeraj said. He also added that the club football levels at the U-19 level are of a high standard.