Ishan Pandita, 18, from Bengaluru has become the first Indian player to get a professional contract from a La Liga club when he signed a one year deal with Leganes. The city is located on the outskirts of Madrid and is currently placed 11th in the league table.
Handed the No 50 jersey by club vice-president and owner Felipe Moreno, Pandita who has joined the first team but given the exposure required at this age, he will start by playing for the junior side – Leganes B who ply their trade in the Tercera Division (the fourth division of football in Spain).
“It’s been a tough, hard three years here in Spain but at the end, it was all worth it,” Ishan said to Times of India from the Spanish capital. “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 dream,” he added.
“What impressed us most about Ishan were his physical attributes and ability to score goals,” Leganes academy director Jorge Broto Benavente said. “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 on.”
Besides Leganes, Getafe had also shown interest in signing the Indian striker who has Kashmiri roots. But Getafe’s relegation allowed Pandita to choose Leganes as his destination.
Late last year, Pandita had an eight-month spell with the junior side of Almeria in the Segunda Division (second division) but because he was not 18, he couldn’t sign a professional contract. However, his early days began with Alcobendas CF (current in Tercera Division) – feeder club for Atletico de Madrid.
Pandita has now had a taste of the facilities and infrastructure at Leganes for a month now and he says the rise to La Liga has also helped the Cantera (the junior side). “We’ve got a new field for the youth players since we moved to La Liga. The facilities are state-of-the-art and we have a fantastic coaching and support staff. We get a lot of attention and in every training program, they make you feel as professional as possible. More importantly, everyone is an equal here,” he stated.