Ishan Pandita became the first Indian to sign for a Spanish first division club when he signed up a one-year contract with Club Deportivo Leganes. It was Pandit's childhood dream to play in a European first division club, one that was fulfilled. However, the 18-year-old forward has signed up for the U-19 side, which plays in the Division Honour de Juvenil, the first division for under-19 players in Spain.
Real Madrid and FC Barcelona's youth teams also feature in the U-19 division and this means that Pandita will get an opportunity to impress against the youth teams of the La Liga giants.
With Ishan creating history and becoming the first Indian to sign a professional junior La Liga contract, here are 5 things to know about the rising Indian footballer.
#1 Early life
Ishan Pandita is a Bengaluru boy who also has Kashmiri roots and was born in 1998. He moved to the Philippines at a very early age and started playing football at the age of six. The Indian joined a British School in Manila and was coached by British coaches since the beginning of his career and has the essence of the English style of football embedded in him.
#2 Life in Bengaluru
Pandita moved to Bengaluru from the Philippines in 2009. Being one of the best players of the International School Bangalore football team, he was named the school team captain.
He even featured in the BDCA's A division and C division state level football leagues for the Student Unions and the Bangalore Yellows. In 2012 the youngster showcased his talents at the 'Airtel Rising Star', a talent hunt organised by 20-time Premier League champions Manchester United at Bengaluru. Pandita was picked among 2,000 candidates and that boosted his confidence.
#3 Major breaks and initial difficulties faced
The striker got his first big break during the Gothia Cup in Sweden in 2013. He put a stellar performance thus catching the eye of scouts of the local club IF Brommapojkarna. The Swedish club invited him to give a trial for their U-17 side.
Pandita informed his parents that he wanted to take a sabbatical from studies and focus on his passion, football, a decision which was heavily criticised and laughed at.
#4 Move to Spain
In 2014, Pandita joined the Intersoccer Madrid football academy in Spain. This Madrid-based academy helped him to secure a berth in Alcobendas CF, a feeder club for Atletico Madrid.
A scout spotted the talented youngster during his stint at Alcobendas FC and he was selected for the U-18 UD Almeria side. Although Pandita featured for the club, he was yet to sign a professional contract at Almeria. Due to Fifa's protection-of-minors clause, which states that international transfers of non-European players are permitted only if they are aged 18 or more, Pandita was set to sign a contract in May 2016.
Before joining CD Leganes, Pandita gave a trial at Getafe FC. Although he passed his trial, he did not join the side. Getafe got relegated last season and Pandita harboured dreams of playing for a La Liga side.
CD Leganes academy director Jorge Broto Benavente was impressed by Ishan Pandita's physical attributes and goal scoring abilities and signed him up.
#5 Favourite players and clubs, and future ambitions
Pandita is a huge fan of Liverpool in the Premier League while he supports Real Madrid in the La Liga. He has many favourite players who he follows including Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo.
In the future, Pandita dreams of playing in the La Liga amongst football's biggest names such as Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. He also dreams of playing for his nation one day.
Ishan Pandita is now set to feature for the U-19 side of Leganes so that he can gain enough experience to compete in the Spanish top flight. The Leganes U-19 side is the perfect place for the Bengaluru youngster to further develop his skills and prepare for an eventual call-up to the main squad in the future.