It is an instance of dreams taking shape for Bengaluru boy Ishan Pandita as he is set to become the first Indian footballer to play for Spanish club UD Almeria reports TOI. The 17-year-old was the first Indian to play for the U-18 side of Almeria.
Pandita started playing football at the age of six and moved to Bengaluru, Karnataka from the Philippines in 2009. He was one of The International School Bangalore's top footballers, eventually being named the school team captain. He turned out for the Students Union and the Bangalore Yellows in the BDFA's 'A' Division and 'C' Division state football leagues, respectively.
In 2013, Ishan got a major break after his performance in the Gothia Cup in Sweden caught the eye of officials of local club IF Brommapojkarna, who invited him for trials for their U-17 squad. The following year, he signed up to join Intersoccer Madrid football academy in Spain, which helped him secure a berth in Alcobendas CF.
Pandita was part of the U-18 side of Almeria, who were relegated to the second division of Spanish football last year. It was reported that a scout spotted the talented striker during his impressive spell with Alcobendas CF, which happens to be a feeder club for Liga giants Atletico Madrid.
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, Ishan will be able to sign an official contract with Almeria only in May 2016.
Whole different ball game compared to Indian standards: Pandita
Naturally, the youngster Pandita was ecstatic with the latest opportunity that has come his way.
"Getting a call from Almeria remains one of my most cherished moments until now," Ishan told TOI from Spain.
"As part of their U-18 squad, I live and train with the team and play friendlies with other youth teams. If everything goes to plan, I expect to sign a contract in May next year, which will enable me to play the club's official league games."
Almeria's academy manager Agustin Sanchez was all praise for Ishan.
"It's for the first time we have accepted an Indian player into our club. At first, we had our doubts; so we asked others for their opinion about Ishan before accepting him. We liked he has adapted well to Spanish football," he said.
"At Almeria, it's a completely different ball game, compared with Indian standards. The technical abilities of players are a lot better and the Spanish coaches are very knowledgeable. Each training session has a complete set of coaching staff, including doctors and a physio," said Ishan, who is also pursuing his Cambridge A-Level education simultaneously.Published 19 Dec 2015, 15:52 IST