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  ‘La Liga, here I come!’

‘La Liga, here I come!’

| SANDEEP MENON
Published : Oct 22, 2016, 11:14 pm IST
Updated : Oct 22, 2016, 11:14 pm IST

Gerraaaaard!!!!!” screamed the commentator on one fateful night in Istanbul 11 years ago as the Liverpool captain scored with a header against AC Milan in the Champions League final.

Ishan Pandita
 Ishan Pandita

Gerraaaaard!!!!!” screamed the commentator on one fateful night in Istanbul 11 years ago as the Liverpool captain scored with a header against AC Milan in the Champions League final.

Even though the English side still trailed the Italian giants 3-1, there was a momentum shift, that which would see one of the most memorable turnarounds in European history.

As the Reds lifted their fifth European championship, miles away, one impressionable young boy was given a new direction in life.

“They were the first team I knew. I was in a British school then and I went for a party and was gifted a Liverpool poster. I have been a supporter since then and have wanted to play football at a high level,” remembered Ishan Pandita.

The 18-year-old was talking to this correspondent from Spain, just hours after becoming the first Indian to sign a professional deal with a La Liga club. Pandita had just penned a one-year deal with the newly promoted side CD Leganes and was awaiting FIFA’s clearance.

“It’s a great feeling and I have sacrificed a lot to be where I am and to get to Leganes. I had trials with Getafe back in March but they got relegated, unfortunately. I wanted to play for a La Liga side and luckily it worked out. I’m a Liverpool fan, so the dream is to play for them or Real Madrid. Just to make it and play with any of the top players will be a great achievement,” said Pandita.

There was a sense of wonder in his next statement.

“I was in the front row when Barcelona played Leganes, so I got to watch (Lionel) Messi, Neymar and (Luis) Suarez and all play. I was in the process of signing with Leganes then. It was great to watch them play,” he recalls.

The striker was 16 and studying in Bengaluru when he decided to take a life changing decision. To head to Spain to fulfill his dream of playing football in Europe.

“I came here when I was 16 with a club called Alcobendas CF in Madrid. And last year, I moved to UD Almeria and was playing for the U-18 side. It took time to make the decision. Being away from home was hard but now it’s getting better. I’m doing my education online. I was studying in a British school in Philippines when I started playing before I moved to Bengaluru. I was 11 then. It’s hard to stay away from education but things are going well now. I also feel that playing the British style of football when I was young helped me get used to the style here better,” remarked the youngster adding that he is hoping to make some waves at the age group level and make it to the first team.

With the Indian national team making an up-curve in their performance in the recent past, the blue shirt is something that remains in the bucket list.

“I haven’t appeared for any age group yet but it will be great to play for the national team,” he signs off.