Ishan Pandita created history on Tuesday when he signed for La Liga outfit Club Deportivo Leganes on a one-year deal, becoming the first Indian to play for a Spanish first division team.
Team Follow Your Sport trails Ishan's journey from the suburbs of Bengaluru to the flush green fields of Leganes, on the outskirts of Madrid.
Originally of Kashmiri descent, Pandita grew up in the Philippines before moving to Bengaluru in 2009. He was first spotted during the Inaugural ‘Airtel Rising Star’ talent hunt event organized by Manchester United in 2012. The winners, including Ishan, got the chance to train at United's Carrington training center.
Pandita started his schooling in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. In Manila, he was predominantly coached by British coaches, who influenced his game to be attacking and physical, an integral part of English philosophy.
After moving back to India in 2009, Ishan joined International School Bangalore football team and soon became the team captain. Soon he gained attention while playing in State level competitions. Ishan’s performance in the 2013 Gothia Cup held in Sweden, impressed the scouts IF Brommapojkarna FC, who later offered him a trial.
Soon after, Pandita joined the Intersoccer Madrid football academy in Spain. The road soon took him to Alcobendas CF, which is a nursery club nurturing talent for Atletico Madrid and several other clubs in the Spanish top flight. FIFA's protection-of-minors clause, which was instated in the year 2003, only permitted international transfers of non-European players to clubs if they are at least 18 years of age. Hence, Pandita signed for the Spanish outfit in May 2016.
Almeria's academy manager Agustin Sanchez has praised Ishan a lot and thinks the young talent has got what it takes to excel at the highest level. Ishan wants to play in the first division of La Liga against, if not along with Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and others.
Earlier in the week, former India captain Baichung Bhutia endorsed Ishan Pandita for the U-20 National team. It seems highly possible that he will be playing for his country soon and give every Indian football fan something to cheer about.
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