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Ishan Pandita becomes first Indian to sign professional junior La Liga contract

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The 18-year-old is not intimidated by the likes of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

Ishan Pandita signs for Leganes

India now has a new entrant in European football, with 18-year-old Ishan Pandita signing a professional contract with La Liga outfit CD Leganes on Monday. The newly promoted club currently sits 11th on the table, with three wins and three losses.

Ishan will be joining the U-19 side, which plays the Division Honour de Juvenil – the top division for under-19 players. This would also mean that Ishan would be playing against Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda from Spain, Ishan was optimistic about his chances of making regular first team appearances. He said, “I had previously trialled for Getafe’s junior team but talks broke down because they got relegated, I wanted to play for a La Liga club. I passed the trials there, but it didn’t make sense for me. I’m really happy, but not elated because I know I have to fight for my position. I will only be happy when I play regular football.”

He added, “My primary goal is to make a senior team appearance by the end of this season. Cement my spot in the youth team, then eventually get a run-out to experience that level.

“Also speaking about the daunting task of facing youth team players of Barcelona and Real Madrid”, he said, “I’m not afraid of any opponent, I respect their abilities but I feel it can be challenged. So they will be like normal players out there on the field for me. Teams such as Malaga will also be tough to beat.”

Also read: Top 10 Indian and Indian-origin youth footballers playing abroad

The league Ishan will be competing in has already begun, with Malaga entering the season as defending champions. He said, “It's far more competitive than the senior league in terms of number of clubs in the fray. Anybody can beat anyone, even Atletico is a strong team. I hope to learn a lot and implement to the best of my abilities.”

Pandita moved to Bengaluru from the Philippines in 2009, before shifting to Spain to groom his skills in the sport. He had immediate success by making it to Almeria’s youth system, before trialling for various La Liga clubs. In his parting sentence, he said, “The dream has only begun for me.”

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